John Maloney's Weblog
A economics examination of enterprise collaboration, learning and knowledge management.


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  Thursday, June 12, 2003

Often, well intentioned people embark on a process to advance the utility and usefullness of
collaboration and communties. This process is know as 'Feature/Function Analysis.' It often takes
the form of a survey or spreadsheet. This process is deeply flawed.

I strongly advise against a feature/function survey. They are a waste of time and produce little in return.

Reductionism is a dangerous and counterproductive model for this process.

Collaborations and communities are a complex human behavior, NOT a tool.

It is a far greater contribution to conduct well-designed ethnographic interviews to arrive at a
model of collaboration and community in a specific domain.

Stories, heuristics, vignettes and anecdotes will be far more effective in determining what qualities and environments help move collaboration and CPs forward.

Technology determinism manifest in the ubiquitous feature/function efforts for collaboration and CoPs always sets-back and hinders their development.

Functionalism is fine for complicated engineering problems, but not for complex human behaviour. Focus on the primary or elementary aspects of tools will -not- advance learning. Only higher-order conversation will deliver method and technique required to move forward.

There is a chronic oversupply of collaborative and community technology today. There is a chronic undersupply of understanding and learning about how it gets used. That is the gap to fill. Don't waste time and effort with yet another useless feature/function analysis.

Finally, there is already a model of common and customary interaction modalities mapped to popular software offerings. My suggestion is that this simple system archetype needs to be carefully updated and tested against today's markets, perceptions and behavioural requirements for collaboration and community.



5:14:07 AM    comment []

  Monday, June 09, 2003

Here is noteworthy lecture that all you experts have probably seen before.
"The first implication of this is that education will become the center
of the knowledge society and schooling its key institution."
In this light, the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing school vouchers
is a much needed breakthrough!
The public school farce perpetuated by the hammerlock of the incompetent
NEA and the treacherous teachers unions may now have some competition
and a real marketplace.
Vouchers are common sense, just like the open source movement. Mostly
because they focus more on the customer and stakeholders, not the
Vouchers terrify the Machiavellian bureaucrats, rigid unions and
bankrupt administrators that have trampled the public school system over
the last fifty years.
Here is a typical, pathetic and craven reaction from the monopolists'
"NEA President Bob Chase said that while vouchers may be legal in some
instances, they are still a bad idea." (Jun 30 '02)
Failed infrastructures and organizations, czarist-like leadership, built
up over generations, will now need to answer to customers, learners &
parents, vis-a-vis reforms delivered by the genius of the marketplace.
M. Drucker properly forecasted this evolvement, 
"...become central concerns of the knowledge society and central
political issues."
...and the eventual end of the arrogant, Soviet-style, government
controlled public school syndicate.
"...distribution of formal knowledge will come to occupy the place in
the politics of the knowledge society which acquisition and distribution
of property and income have occupied in the two or three centuries which
we have come to call the Age of Capitalism."=20
"The productivity of knowledge work, still abysmally low, will predictably
become the economic challenge of the knowledge society."

11:16:08 AM    comment []

  Sunday, June 08, 2003

Creating Sustainable Learning Communities: Withdrawl From Teaching Unions
"The reason our society must create a new language for learning
communities that transcends school and classroom walls is that the
dominance, attraction, and power of the current machine-based language
of schooling is not capable of generating the organic patterns of the
global learning community we now require."
Here is an example of the dominance language:
Class: A social stratum whose members share certain economic,
social, or
cultural characteristics
Room: An area separated by walls or partitions
Classroom: artifact of Newtonian, mechanical approach to "teaching" 
The monstrous "teachers" unions and the bureaucratic monolith of the NEA
("a 145-year old labor union") are the main purveyors of the dominance
They are the specific, direct reason and cause for the current (and
past) learning crisis in the USA.
The NEA is a giant labor union. Their specific mission to advance the
mission of its due-paying members. The have congress and the Dems & Reps
in their pocket. Learners aren't even on the radar of this
hyper-political juggernaut. Parents, taxpayers and learners, and bright
new teachers, are its hostage.
That is why it is critical to force the realities of economic ecosystems
for learning onto the national agenda. It is particularly important not
to require parents to pay TWICE simply to opt-out of this failed labor
empire, for example.
Indeed, choice and vouchers are a step in the right direction to create,
"...learning culture that provides a forum for risk, novelty,
experimentation, and challenge and that redirects and personalizes
learning. We must create learning communities for learners of all ages
that can give power, time, and voice to their inquiry and their
This is a grave threat to the NEA's monopoly, bureaucracy and political
clout. Efforts in the past have been erased and swept up in to the belly
of the monopoly. Novel ideas are routinely crushed by the corrupt NEA
and its syndicate in favor of the mechanistic, linear model that serves
bureaucracy far better.
Within these rigid NEA/union models, administrators
outnumber teachers and those involved with learning by 2 to 1.
Administrators get far more pay and rewards than teachers. This makes
sense when its singular mission is to perpetuate the union through
suppression, dominance, fear and censorship.

2:53:20 AM    comment []

  Saturday, November 02, 2002

Wither Collaborative Technology
Welcome to the Road Kill Diner

There is a legion of generic collaborative software roadkill. Most of the offerings were innovative and substantial technical achievements.

They all seem to go through the same 2-4 year lifecycle in the following order:

We are:

1.) Collaborative infrastructure, e.g., dial tone
2.) Consumer centered, e.g., B2C or C2C
3.) Business centered, e.g., value chain focus, B2B
4.) Enterprise focus, e.g., teamware, collaborative project management

By this time, these start-ups/entrepreneurs have used-up their capital, are burnt out and suffering from product management fatigue.

Some fail their way through 'enterprise focus' and settle in on a particular vertical. (5.)

The path to success here is to win over some domain experts and integrate deep vertical logic into the collaborative offering. This is still very risky and capital intensive, but really the only way to have a go in this space.

IMO, this lifecycle is a perfect reflection of what it should be; it's backwards. It is critical to *master* a vertical, before moving up and out.

Therefore, the wealth creation concerning open-source collaborative softwares must surround exploiting the vertical domain expertise and logic.

This approach creates/sustains the virtuous cycle that is elemental to open source success. It also creates the multiples and scale that would attract capital.

Broad-based, universal, open source collaborative information technologies sans specific vertical logic and focused application are a pipe dream mostly.

2:53:13 AM    comment []

Intermodal Collaboration - Part Two

I'd Rather Fight Than Switch


The switching costs of multi-modal interaction techniques are inefficient and awkward. Imagine all the methods used today to communicate and collaborate, such as email, phone, instant messaging, Web conferencing, face-2-face, paper, white boards, etc. All of these so-called point systems emerged as new technology enabled them. Efforts at combining them have been anecdotal and unsuccessful. The barriers between them are substantial.


Why do these boundaries exist? A lot has to do with traditions, norms and socio-technical expectations. These barriers are among the most difficult to overcome because the deal primarily with behaviors and trust. To drive integrated collaborative environments, deliberate efforts must address behaviors. Factors of trust include issues concerning maturity, organization and perceptions. Overcoming these barriers and the efficiency and speed of interactions becomes far greater and effective. 


People have been talking about integrated electronic collaboration environments since the late fifties. Substantial progress has been made. Still, we still do not enjoy the frictionless almost unconscious switching that spans the rich mode of people-to-people interaction technologies. We have great electronic people-to-people connectivity, but only little conductivity.


Some groupware technologies like Notes helped move us in the right direction. However, Notes constrained users to conducting all manner of interaction in a Notes form. Then the Web debuted. Its elegant combination of HTTP, URL, and HTML, allowed for access to vast amounts of information and transactions. Again, liberating and constraining at the same time; the Web constrained users to interacting in a Web page. Some people even confused Web-based information access with collaboration. Of course there is email, which most all agree has reached the point of diminishing returns for collaboration. None of these is a legitimate example of the fluid, frictionless enterprise collaboration technology essential to productivity growth.     


Along with these innovations arrived other point solutions, which did serve to advance the picture in various bounded domains. Instant messaging, in use by hundreds of millions, is a good example. Videoconferencing is another example, although its own problems are legend. Many have been crafted, only to fail. This famous, some now say infamous, graphic points to some of these interaction domains and the point systems that serve them.


Fortunately, offerings are emerging that exhibit careful engineering and appreciation for the behaviors and trust elements required for intermodal success. The key to these offerings is transparent boundaries between collaborative modes. The seamless and effortless transitions between interaction modes in a rich collaborative environment drive out boundary switching costs. Unique invitation-only name space management drives the anthropomorphic trust matrix essential to electronic interaction. Finally, the 'clip-in' and ad hoc nature of new collaborative components supports collaboration as maturity and sophistication increase. This point is key and cannot be overemphasized. Techniques that responding instantly to increasing trust and interaction will deliver exponential increases in people-to-people conductivity.


The future of intermodal collaboration is bright. Desktop offerings such as Groove Networks are leading the way. Cellular telephony appliances that download feature sets according to the users are like the pocket knives of intermodal collaboration. If offerings continue to be engineered and deployed within the domain of social networks and trust, transaction costs for intermodal collaboration wiill be reduced substantially.





9:22:30 AM    comment []

  Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Intermodal Collaboration - Part One

The Airport Blues


Imagine flying from Boston to San Francisco with a major airline and being expected to walk to your final ground destination. The usual ‘final-mile’ transportation connections such as taxi, bus, train, personal car or van, would simply be unavailable. Upon exiting the backbone corridor of jumbo service between BOS-SFO you would be left at the terminal to fend for yourself. It sounds absurd, but in the view of many ‘portal’ vendors, IT departments and centerbase systems providers, that is exactly what you should expect from their offerings!


In reality, without attractive intermodal transportation hubs such as most modern airports, the value of long-haul transportation to the masses would be questionable. The boundaries of the wideband transportation system must be served by a phalanx of options that serve the final mile. It is elemental to the success of the backbone and to the overall transportation solution. Transportation planners know that it is a fundamental component of the overall experience and success of the system. Odd those enterprise systems providers often don’t see this as elemental to their success.


Some suppliers have achieved success by proposing various point-solutions to enable enterprise transactions to be conducted at the intersection of the backbone and proximate resources. Mostly anecdotal, these point solutions were primarily intended to serve the control requirement of centralized management systems. Workers were biological exponents of the data and information infrastructure. They were also a bit of nuisance, since they often failed to fit into the rigid centralized models. Fortunately, carbon-based ‘assets’ are on the rise, and are being recognized not as the ‘slow part of transactions,’ but as the key knowledge ‘containers’ needed to propel the enterprise forward.


Indeed, like transportation planners, enterprise systems planners are recognizing proximate or local collaboration as a core activity. They are just beginning to accept the notion that rich intermodal collaboration environments will determine the success of the backbone systems and overall competitiveness. Only by driving multi-modal collaborative technologies will business leaders capture the ephemeral nature of users’ interactions, attention, memory and the rapid creation of totally new competitive weapons. They’ve accepted the sometimes capricious nature of the enterprise knowledge workers and are rising to the occasion by making agile intermodal collaboration an enterprise-wide priority. Like the transportation planner, they are not force-fitting backbone technologies, but empowering the end-user to select whatever mode of interaction they see fit.


Ask any passenger airline industry executive what their business is and you usually get one word, “Communications.”  Nearly 75% of airline profits (when they have them) originate from the business traveler. The value provided is enabling good, old-fashioned same-time, same-place collaboration. Business pays dearly for this privilege. To provide a solution, transportation providers must enable the backbone corridors with rich, multi-modal options at the termini and gateways of the system. Enterprise IT and business managers will be most successful learning from this model. Surrounding enterprise systems with effective, intermodal collaborative technologies, provisioning and community, will drive innovation and competitiveness for years to come.    

1:14:06 AM    comment []

  Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Why Best Practices Never Are
How to Prepare for the Knowledge Marathon

With over 1000 patents, The great American inventor, Thomas A. Edison, also discovered early in his career, "Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration."

Knowledge Managers, and especially "Best Practice" leaders, need to eagerly embrace this concept.

Edison would probably agree that knowledge management (KM) is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash. Yet contemporary KM othodoxy strives to get everyone to sprint 26 miles versus building the endurance needed to compete. KM endurance is manifest in communities, trust webs and in effective use of innovative technologies that connect people-to-people for joint intellectual effort. 

Successful organizations endeavor to improve core capabilities and enhance innovation. They attempt to harness their capabilities and innovation using databases of "Best Practices." These efforts often fail.

Core capabilities and dazzling innovation arises from precognition and prescience. They are factors of intelligence: the capacity to acquire and apply knowledge. These rare elements determine the competitiveness of an organization. It's the final burst that gets them across finish line of the marathon.

Because core capabilities exist in cognition, in alpha/beta waveforms, they cannot be codified or documented. This is a maddening dilemma for knowledge managers and knowledge product suppliers alike. They originate in people-to-people interaction zones, transparent collaboration environments and social learning settings.

The most successful organizations strive to nurture and sustain Engelbart's 'Capability Infrastructure:" the second and third-order organizational methods and techniques that augment and drive the basic operations of the organization.  

The problem with "Best Practices" is self-evident in the name. "Best" is the superlative of good, and means it must surpass ALL in excellence, achievement, quality and competitiveness. If this was so, then it would be a core capability or enhanced innovation, and you can't point, shoot and scroll core capabilities or innovation. Thus, best practices never are.

Best Practices are really "Good Policies and Procedures" and deserve significant attention and investment by knowledge managers. These compound networked documents, policies, systems and procedures provide fractional heuristics, idioms, parables, metaphors, illustrations, relationships, dialogue and allegories about the organization's core capabilities. They augment and enhance the capabilities, innovation and net intelligence of the organization. Good policies and procedures are essential to competitiveness and leading the pack in the knowledge marathon.

"Best Practices" are far better thought of as "Next Practices."

Another turn-of-the-century rumination by Mr. Edison, tells us, "Always keep on the lookout for novel ideas that others have used successfully. Your idea has to be original, only in its adaptation to the problem you're working on."

It is critical that organizations nurture, cultivate and diffuse good policies and procedures so others may adapt and apply them in totally new ways. These "novel ideas" fuel innovation and enhance core capabilities.

Good policies and practices play a major role in highly innovative organizations. They are well suited to extending foundation capabilities, enabling innovation and improving endurance capacity. Good policies and practices assure a comfortable lead in the knowledge marathon.

Executives and managers fret over the lack of adoption, adaptation and sharing of great ideas in their organizations. "Best Practices" make matters much worse. Western culture teaches individualism and self-sufficiency. It also teaches humility and self-deprecation. This dual-edged cultural sword makes adoption and sharing of superlatives utterly impossible. In reality, best practices never are.

By nature the innovation ecosystem must be future-focused and rely mostly on the interaction of people in the context of next practices. Intermodal electronic collaboration environments that sustain this interaction are needed and available today.

Some argue that a rich, networked environment of good policies and procedures evolves an organizational memory that hinders radical and discontinuous change and innovation, which is so necessary for survival.

Others feel that without a robust organizing foundation of good policies and procedures, even rudimentary innovation is impossible.

The challenge for knowledge managers, workers and line-of-buisness executives  is to facilitate good corporate memory by learning-to-forget while simultaneously building and extending all good policies and procedures. If well executed, these processes build the stamina and set the pace that is elemental to competing in the knowledge marathon. It's where next practices emerge.

Near the close of his prolific, illustrious career, the Menlo Park, NJ resident and inventor of the incandescent lamp quipped, "We don't know one millionth of one percent about anything."

Knowledge managers and "Best Practice" leaders take heed. Like the mythical Narcissus who was unable to stop admiring his own image, never consider your good policies and procedures as surpassing all others and you will understand why best practices never are.


6:55:52 PM    comment []

  Monday, October 21, 2002


The Interactive Enterprise:
End-to-End Interactions Define Performance

To prosper today it is critical to manage enterprise knowledge from the “outside-in” not from the “inside-out.” The inductive and introspective corporate strategies, tactics and systems of the past don’t hold water in the economic logic of today.

Seasoned business knowledge managers know this approach. They strive to validate and enhance zones of secure collaboration, sharing, learning, context and community for people across the firms entire value chain. The pervasive use of transorganizational technologies like Internet instantant messaging and Web access to documents, have made these interactions even more critical to the companies strategy and operating margins.  

It is crucial to recognize and embrace the new longitudinal value-chain that spans a myriad of organizing foundations. All facets of the emerging enterprise must be secure, open and technically agile. The new people-to-people organizing model is the networked shared space. A far greater percentage of the firm’s assets must focus outside the firm versus inside. Effective business collaboration is rapidly surpassing competition and rivalry as the key tool for sustained business advantage.

Everyone needs to find his or her place - organizationally and individually – globally and locally. Productive, secure and open person-to-person connect time has become even more important in the new realities.

Business knowledge managers need to expand opportunities for relevant, trans-enterprise interactions with partners, suppliers, employees and customers. Widen the firms’ front-end. Publish interface specifications to your core business processes. Rotate your inwardly focused knowledge structures 180 degrees to focus on external electronic business relationships. Build your knowledge platform from an external, Internet perspective.  Ease the ability to instantly craft the knowledge nexus through rich, ad hoc people-to-people collaboration environments.

Test yourself: when was the last time you had a meaningful, substantial person-to-person interaction with your partners, suppliers or customers using an Internet-based technology? If it is more than a matter of hours, then you have a lot of work to do to remain competitive.  

It is not enough to just be able to connect and access. You need to interact synchronously. Some may think internetworking and automation may eliminate the need for person-to-person interaction. This is wrong and dangerous.

It's less about connectivity, and more about conductivity.

In reality, the whole purpose of the shared spaces of the Interbusiness network is to increase opportunity and context for productive supplier/partner/customer interaction. It’s how to advance competitive knowledge and increase wealth creation.

To become an Interactive Enterprise, make your call center a key intelligence listening post. Continuously learn about customers and non-customers. Direct enterprise resources to the customer interaction. Take unconditional personal ownership and responsibility to please the customer, partner or supplier in every single interaction. Strive to deepen all relationships. Every strata of the enterprise must implement the new Internet ethos of interactive reconnaissance, synthesis and performance.

Furthermore, assure each interaction is easier, faster, more convenient and more secure than the last. Arm you knowledge workers with the tools and environments to accelerate interactive improvement. Heighten awareness about your business through information and knowledge sharing.


Coach your people that satisfaction must be delivered faster than fast. The Internet has compressed, almost eliminated the time available to please customers. Providing optimal and just sufficient information to people is critical to capturing the fleeting moment-of-opportunity. It’s instant gratification or no gratification.


Don’t “browse” – target and prosecute. Make the investments. Eliminate the barriers. Focus, link and lead.


The Internet has expanded your global, 24/7reach. Establish interactive, self-managing processes. Operate them preemptively. Execute like a robust, fail-safe network. Assure that your processes excel instantly, perpetually and globally.

Finally, exploit the knowledge platform to enable every person’s interactive behavior to expand-the-brand. In Internet logic, mind share equals market share and brand equals experience. Refine people interactions to establish and reinforce your invaluable, immediate Internet proximity. Your people and presence must declare and corroborate your Internet brand constantly.

As the frontier of knowledge-based InterBusiness collaboration expands, two types of enterprises will emerge: the Interactive and the dead.

7:09:44 AM    comment []

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Last update: 6/26/2003; 5:50:01 PM.

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