Sunday, October 09, 2011

Education is the next key sector for major disruption through effective knowledge management


It’s Sunday lunchtime and I am sitting by the Singapore river having a coffee.


I have my netbook connected to SingTel and I am thinking about my work this next week. This is with teams of people who are wanting to explore knowledge management to see how it might help their work in supporting teachers, and how to create and share even better knowledge, practices and methods for better teaching. They are the teachers training college, the National Institute of Education, NIE Singapore, and they support a community of over 30,000 teachers in 650 Singapore schools.


The question I have been asked by NIE to discuss thoroughly is ‘Why should they consider the latest developments in knowledge management in their work? What effects, if any, could the most effective knowledge management strategies, methods and tools have on even better teacher support, quality, productivity and even more innovative education? They are an innovative organisation with a mission and passion for excellence.

In considering the ‘why’ for any industry sector, it’s good to consider first any radical innovations that are already taking place.

So I will first point out to the group the work of the ‘University of the People’ the first tuition free global online university, more details here 

Then I will present to the group an overview of the MIT free online courseware, with over 2000 titles freely available on the web today.

I will then tell the story of a lecturer who I met at the ‘KM Asia conference’ three years ago, from Singapore University, who told me that students now come to lectures with iPads and wireless PC’s and smart phones, of course, and if they are not happy with the lecture they can instantly google the subject, find, for example, a world class professor from Harvard who has a free video lecture on the same subject, and circulate that to the class virally, whilst the lecturer continues unaware.

We will also discuss how students and conference delegates often tweet key messages and key new learning’s, ideas and insights to people around the world, as it happens, because their followers also like to learn from what the audience think and feel, and not just what the presenter/lecturer says. 

I thinks these four examples show disruptive innovation in a radically changing education environment, where the people can now choose and engage with the best in the world and, increasingly, free or very low cost.

Of course, online education and the more traditional physical, social, university campus and school learning experiences are both extremely powerful ways to learn, share, experience, develop and grow.

But I suggest to you that we are learning from the disruptive innovation in creating, distributing and delivering entertainment, like music, video and films, to major disruptive innovation in the education sector. And it is happening now. And I suggest that what I have just described above, is the ‘warm up’ act, with much more radical innovation to follow.

I suggest that effective knowledge management is a disruptive force, supported by new scalable tools and technologies that will contribute greatly to new and better ways to educate, across the world.

Let’s see what people at NIE think about these developments next week.

What do you think about education as the next key sector for major disruption through effective knowledge management? Is it happening in your country? 

Ron Young

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Friday, October 07, 2011

How Steve Jobs inspired me to start working with his vision of knowledge management in 1987

Steve Jobs 1955 - 2011

It was Steve Jobs who greatly inspired me in 1987/8 to start working with his vision in the practice of knowledge management.

Five years later, based on his vision, I founded Knowledge Associates in Cambridge UK. Today, I travel the world constantly teaching organizations ways that Steve Jobs could see in the late 1980's for people to work with information, learning and knowledge in radically new ways globally.

My business involvement with Apple, and Steve Jobs inspiration actually started in 1982 when my software company at the time, Systematics International Microsystems Ltd, was inspired to develop for Apple 'Apple Accounting' on the remarkable and radical Macintosh.

But in 1987, under Steve Jobs inspiration, Apple produced a video vision for the future called 'The Apple Knowledge Navigator' and, even at that time, he saw the prototype of what we now call the iPad. Twenty years later, that part of his vision became a reality.

But for me, he really inspired me the most through his further vision in this remarkable video, to link all the Universities together across the world, with key people communicating, collaborating, learning, sharing and applying knowledge together.

He had a vision for individuals, teams, organizations and communities to be able to practice knowledge management globally through the use of remarkable new mobile information and communication tools.

Ever since then I have been trying, with difficulty, to turn that part of his vision into reality.

What is remarkable for me, is that although KM practitioners had developed some exciting new KM theories, strategies and processes over the years, we never really had the simple to use, and powerful tools needed to support the theory. Then came Web 2.0 social tools in 2004 and, eventually, the iPhone and, especially, the iPad appeared to support knowledge workers in radically new, intuitive, and powerful ways.

So our challenge now is to show organizations how they can use these mobile and web based tools in the way Steve Jobs predicted.

I am currently working and writing this blog post from Singapore and I first heard the breaking news of Steve Jobs death in the morning coffee break yesterday, for the course I am running for the National Institute of Education at the Nanyang University Campus.

We were actually working at that time on the module that discusses the best practical tools to help individuals and teams practice personal and team knowledge management. We were discussing the use of the iPhone and iPad to tweet, blog, work with wiki's, work in social networks, web telephony and video.

I then felt compelled to play to the group the 'Apple Knowledge Navigator 1987' video on youtube. I am so glad this video is still available on the web today.

I would urge you to watch this 24 year old video and reflect on the accomplishments of Apple since.

Steve Jobs was a genius visionary and such an inspirational leader, within Apple, and to so many successful companies in silicon valley, and to so many people around the world.

Ron Young

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day 1 & 2 of Practical KM Competencies programme at NPC India, New Delhi

Practical KM Competencies 16th - 20th August 2011, New Delhi, India

I have now completed Days 1 and 2 of a 5 day programme 'KM Competencies' organised by the National Productivity Council of India(NPC), with headquarters in New Delhi, and also sponsored by the Asian Productivity Organization, with headquarters in Tokyo, Japan.

The 5 day programme is available from NPC here.

The reason we launched a practical programme is because we know that people will never appreciate and realise the full power and benefit of KM in their daily lives by simply listening to KM teachers expressing concepts and theories.

Its rather like the vast majority of people who drive cars today. They are only really interested in getting from A to B. They are not interested in how the car or engine works, unless they are enthusiasts and engineers.

However, in the early days of introducing automobiles, they were unreliable and so they needed engineers who understood how they worked to drive them. I often think that this is where KM is today for many. They are not getting the results reliably from many teachers of theory only, but just from the few that have actually succeeded with KM practically themselves.

Furthermore, until people experience KM for themselves, they will never know what it really is. Its rather like flying. Imagine that I am trying to explain to you what it is like to fly in an aeroplane. I can talk about it all week long, but until you actually fly yourself, you will never be able to experience it.

Then you get the 'aha! so does that mean that I can now do ..... in my daily work?'

In Days 1 & 2, of the 5 day programme, everybody started to use the tools and think about them in the workplace in more meaningful ways. We focused on personal knowledge management and started to work with alerts and blogs.

So, first thing tomorrow morning, we will all review and share our new learning's and insights in a totally new way on the web together, and in the workshop.

Then we will work with tweets and personal social networks and wiki's.

But, primarily, tomorrow we will focus on team knowledge management, and we will use team wiki's and collaborative work spaces, and team blogs and generally work through the effective collaborative team process.

I look forward to writing about Day 3.

Ron Young

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

10.30pm Sunday evening in Singapore Airlines lounge working on KM 2012

Its 10.30pm in the Singapore Airlines Lounge in Singapore, waiting for the 2.15am flight to New Delhi, India.

At least the cafe latte is good, and the tuna sandwich is pretty ok too.

So what am I doing?

I am updating all my KM materials and producing a new version which will be ready for publication for January 2012.It encompasses all my new learnings and insights that I get through my KM consulting engagements, workshops and conference speaking around the world.

The great thing about doing this update, which I do religiously every year, is that this very process always triggers new creative and innovative thoughts. In fact, I get so excited by these new revelations that I sometimes forget the original purpose.

This makes me realise, once again, that the creative process of knowledge creation is often a function of time, to reflect, analyse, consolidate, synthesize, and update new thoughts and ideas with established thoughts and concepts.

Imagine how much more creative individuals and organisations could become, if only they gave more time and value to learning, reflecting, creating and applying knowledge?

I was told that Google demand that their employees spend 20% of their work time to learning, reflecting, creating and innovating. I am told that 3M were pioneers in doing this 80/20 time week.

I wonder how many of the really valuable, and maybe even radical,innovations come from this 20% usage of time for more effective knowledge working?

When will management understand and properly value knowledge creation against performance?

Meanwhile, another cafe latte? a glass of wine? 4 hours to go. I need some 80/20 time.

Ron Young

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Saturday morning in sunny Singapore

It's saturday morning in sunny Singapore and, I guess, that's my favourite time here.


Well, for many people around the world, it's normally because we have all been working hard during the week and its a time to relax. But, in Singapore, even more so because Singaporeans work very hard, very fast, and quite often, very long hours over the weekend too.

For me, my work finished about 10pm on friday night, after a skype videoconference with Kevin and Donovan in their Singapore office, and Douglas in Washington who was enjoying the friday morning, twelve hours behind Singapore.

This saturday morning I sat outside my hotel for breakfast, at Clarke's Quay down by the Singapore river. Just like every morning this week, but this time it was very different. Instead of gulping my breakfast and coffee,and reading notes in a very detached sort of way, about my meetings that day, I was able to sit and listen to the birds chirping away. Across the street, I noticed a guy was watering the plants around the building, smiling, and saying hello to people passing by.He was probably there every morning, but I hadn't noticed before.

What I really loved this morning, was that the beautiful green and lush plants under the palms were full of glistening white water jewels. Pearls of white that looked so fresh for a new day. They were especially magnified by the Singapore sun and bright light.

For me, only on a saturday morning, I had time to just browse through the Singapore Strait Times, and even just read articles I would simply not have the time to do during the week.

And the coffee even tasted so much better today.

Before I knew it, in a flash of timelessness, it was 11.30am and several beads of sweat were making themselves known on my forehead. It was time to go in to the hotel to cool down.

My first thought, back in the bustling lobby was 'how nice it would be if we could enjoy the beauty of our surroundings every morning'. Then I thought, 'but then we wouldn't have special saturday mornings'.

Happy saturday to all, everywhere.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

KM Tools and Techniques book launched in Iran in Arabic

I have just spent 7 days teaching Knowledge Management for the Public Sector in Tehran, Iran.

So I was delighted to be presented there with our latest book published by APO Tokyo entitled 'KM Tools and Techniques' translated in Arabic, for initial launch in Iran

How exciting is that :-)

Ron Young

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

KM Australia and Virgin Atlantic humour

I am flying Virgin Atlantic London to Sydney to speak at KM Australia this coming week and run a workshop 'Understanding the four dimensions of Knowledge Management'

Just before landing at Hong Kong, Matt, in charge of the cabin crew announced, "Aircrew take your stations, this is your last chance to have a seated landing" :-)

Even better, on arrival and whilst taxying to the stand "We need a few volunteer passengers to stay behind and clean the toilets. If you wish to do this please make yourself known by standing up before the seat belt sign is switched off" :-)

Finally, "As you are mad enough to hurtle through space in a metal tube at incredible speeds, if you wish to do so again, please use Virgin" :-)

Thanks Matt for your humour :-)


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Sunday, June 26, 2011

From the 'management of knowledge' to effective 'knowledge management and innovation'

I have been a KM consultant and practitioner since 1993. That's a long time, but I am happy to say that I have helped many clients in different industries, and quite different cultures, all around the world, implement successful and sustainable KM initiatives.

Yet, just last week, I was speaking at the KM UK 2011 conference in London. It was attended by a broad selection of experienced practitioners, consultants and people new to KM. At that conference I attended a Knowledge Cafe, run by David Gurteen, and he posed the question for discussion 'It can be argued that KM has failed to live up to its expectations over the past 15 years and has not delivered the business value promised. Why is this?

As a proud and passionate KM professional, I never like to hear of KM as a failure at any time, especially when it can deliver such extraordinary results to an organization, but I am, at the same time, acutely aware of much 'overselling' of KM as a technology, or KM as a silver bullet, and I do greatly respect the concerns of my fellow practitioners and peers like David Gurteen.

I guess that the biggest mistake that I make is in assuming that we all have the same understanding of KM, as novices and even amongst experienced practitioners and consultants who may choose to specialize rather than generalize.

And I often make the great mistake of assuming that everybody knows what KM is! I forget that, each year, many people are totally new to KM and very keen to learn.

The No 1, most popular section of my website is, by far, people searching from all over the world for an understandable definition of 'knowledge managemen'. This is followed, in popularity, by the section 'What is KM?'. So I should know better.

I gave a quick answer at the Knowledge Cafe that a key problem is the language that we use. Everybody understands and nobody argues about the importance of better managing our knowledge, but as soon as we say 'knowledge management' people tend to say, 'is it a system or software? can you do KM to us? etc.

A simple reordering of the words 'management' and 'knowledge', can change the perception and understanding entirely.

I often get the same confusion from seminar delegates with the words information and knowledge. People still often argue about differences between 'learning organizations' and 'knowledge based and knowledge driven organizations'. And, increasingly today, I get lots of questions asked in my workshops about new knowledge and innovation.

I left the London KMUK 2011 conference somewhat frustrated, as I think there is so much great work that has been done,and so much work yet to be done to bring about effective knowledge driven organizations with increasingly productive knowlede working.

I flew from London to Singapore, to spend a week with clients who are so keen to improve the way they manage their learning and knowledge.

I always start a new client engagement with assessing and developing their common understanding of KM or whatever they prefer to call it, and the words they prefer to use. I use a simple tool to demystify the jargon and start talking about KM in words we all understand.

I offer the essence of it here. This should work for you, if you are experiencing difficulties and misunderstandings. But you may agree or disagree with this. Please let me know your thoughts.

I strongly believe that a key problem for KM is the way we use our language.

So I call this tool 'From the management of knowledge to effective knowledge management and innovation'.

1. We communicate 'information' to one another. We do this verbally and through the use of a variety of information and communication tools and technologies (ICT). We inform others and we become better informed.

2. 'Learning' is the process of turning information into knowledge. The information we receive may be 'intellectual' such as listening or reading, or it may be 'experiential' such as 'learning whilst working/acting. We learn through our senses by filtering, analysing and synthesizing the new learning's with our existing knowledge.

3. 'Knowledge' resides within us. It is a human phenomena. We can call this knowledge within us our 'tacit' knowledge, and when we externalise it through communicating to others, it may be called our knowledge that is made explicit.

4. Our 'explicit knowledge' is information to others, unless they already know. It becomes part of their synthesized knowledge when they have performed the learning process.

5. Information can be communicated in seconds. Knowledge takes time through learning.

6. Collaboration (co-labouring) is working together as a team towards achieving a common mission, goal or objective. We can learn to effectively collaborate.

7. Managing knowledge effectively, which is about identifying critical knowledge areas that will make a 'big difference', capturing and synthesizing new learning's and ideas, retaining knowledge, transferring or sharing knowledge, and applying knowledge to make the best decisions, requires the best communications, collaboration, learning and knowledge strategies, processes, methods tools and techniques.

This may be called 'knowledge management'

8. We must manage our knowledge at the personal, team, organizational and inter-organizational levels, to bring about 'effective knowledge management'. For each of the four levels, we must learn how to effectively communicate, collaborate, learn, share and apply our knowledge. We must learn 'why, what, who, how, where and when' for each of the four levels. For many organizations, this may be called 'extraordinary knowledge management'.

9. The 'Four Dimensions of Knowledge Management' is a framework to bring about extraordinary knowledge management. This can be used to help organizations to 'mainstream knowledge management'.

10. A natural outcome from effective knowledge management is innovation. Mainstreaming knowledge management will bring about 'mainstreamed innovation'.

After presenting the 10 commands in a KM workshop, delegates are then given the opportunity to discuss the use of these words, and my suggested definitions.

So far, many have said that it has helped them considerably to demystify KM and to realise, teach, and bring, about a common understanding of the term Knowledge Management, or another more suitable term for them, based on these principles.

I have no doubt that effective knowledge management will bring about extraordinary results for organizations, and I look forward to the prospect of a Knowledge Cafe in the future that will discuss extraordinary knowledge management and innovation.

Ron Young

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Era of the Global Individual

I have written about the 'Global Individual' several times before, but it keeps coming back to me in stronger waves.

In all my work,to help organizations better capture, create, share and apply knowledge to achieve business objectives, I continually see the rapidly increasing empowerment of the individual as the most potent force to bring about the paradigm shift from separate knowledge entities and individuals, to collective knowledge entities in teams, organizations and communities.

Mobile technologies like smart phones, iPads, camcorders and audio recorders are, of course, extensions to our eyes, ears and voices. When connected to the global internet and the world wide web of browsers, contextual search engines, hyperlinked documents, and information resources, it extends our capacities beyond our wildest imagination. Social networking tools that enable us to build web profiles, like facebook, Web 2.0 communication and collaboration tools like tweets, blogs and wiki's enable us to have swirling and swarming global conversations and build new knowledge together.

We have evolved from separated tribal individuals with very little, and very slow, knowledge transfer beyond our immediate village communities, just several hundred years ago, to highly connected global individuals with very fast knowledge transfer,potentially to anybody on the planet.

The implications of being a global individual are just starting to emerge. This is simply massive empowerment.

None of us know the full implications of this, other than it will be simply huge change, and hopefully it will be a positive disruption across our established ways of living and working.

Most importantly for me to consider is that the global individual will be empowered and working with global networks, communities, organizations and teams with new global tools to capture, create, share and apply global knowledge.

And along with this comes the need for 'total transparency'. This may delight you or horrify you.

For example, I know people who are trying to keep their business persona separate from their private persona to family and friends. I actually think this is understandable, but futile. To me, it is simply inevitable that we will soon all become totally transparent global individuals.

In return, we will all gain much richer and much deeper insights of one another. Another major step towards better understanding one another.

What do you think about this? Does this delight or horrify you?

Ron Young

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Gaia and global knowledge ecologies

Last November 2010, I presented a paper at KM Asia in Singapore which presented some of my thoughts on Quantum Physics and KM.

We really do urgently need a new theory of knowledge and knowledge economics, to better develop and grow as individuals, teams, and organizations, in this global knowledge society, and that paper was my attempt to start a discussion around the global knowledge entity.

I used the metaphors of 'A Sky of Information'(actually that's a truth) and 'An Ocean of Knowledge'.

I really do see and better understand information and knowledge flow in these terms.
I have developed my thinking quite a bit since November 2010 and I hope to produce another paper, perhaps even a new knowledge hypothesis soon.

Well this week I decided to re-read one of my favourite older books from 1979 'Gaia - a new look at life on Earth' by Jim Lovelock. At the time, Jim was an independant scientist who has co-operated with NASA in their space programme, and since 1974 has been a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Of his book, Gaia, others say that Gaia is an intimate account of a journey through time and space in search of evidence with which to support a new and radically different model of Earth. Bringing knowledge from astronomy to zoology in support of his hypothesis, Jim Lovelock explores the idea that the life of Earth functions as a single organism which actually defines and maintains conditions necessary for its survival.

Actually, since Gaia was first published in 1979, many of Lovelock's predictions have come true and his theory has become one of the most hotly debated topics in scientific circles.

Today, global climate change is top of the agenda and Lovelock has some profound views on the implications for Planet Earth and humanity.

You will probably realise, by now, that I was glued to my chair when re-reading his views on the self-regulating information and knowledge transfer functions of the sky and the oceans. My metaphor suddenly took on a much deeper meaning for me.

I have always preferred to talk about knowledge ecologies and even in my first book in 1995, Upside Down Management, McGraw Hill Europe, I talked much more comfortably about getting the most out of knowledge workers in organizations when we remove structured limitations and recognise that people are highly complex organisms.

So I am thinking and looking deeper into similarities between the behaviours of deep ecological systems on Planet Earth and global knowledge ecologies.

Going back to Quantum Physics, I am still most interested in the Quantum Physicists view of an underlying force, deeper and beyond the laws of energy and matter, that is often called the Quantum vacuum or Zero Point, and informs all forms of life.

Again this is rather like a 'sky of information' and an 'ocean of knowledge', and intuition tells me that we all can, and unconsciously do, access some of this knowledge.

So I think some answers for a new knowledge theory may be found in combining new thoughts about the invisible world of quanta with new thoughts about the visible world and deep ecology.

But my brain is starting to hurt. It's saturday and our local SW France village is celebrating a weekend of bands, music and wine.I need the break :-)

Let me know if you have any thoughts about any of this, or your views on a new knowledge theory, as I will be back in deep thinking mode soon.

Ron Young

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Thursday, June 02, 2011

Celebrating Team Differences

Today, I was reminded of the work that I did in the late 1990's with Lotus Developments. It was called 'Celebrating Team Differences'

When we work in teams, we naturally find differences. Some differences are appreciated, but on many occassions, people can initially tend towards conflict as a result of the differences.

As many of us have to also work in virtual teams, that can be rapidly thrown together overnight, without any opportunity to get to know one another, and even ever meet one another physically, the problem of team differences and team conflict can become magnified.

Yet, if properly understood, team differences can be a great asset and, properly developed, can even cause us to celebrate these differences, and greatly increase our team performance and productivity.

One of the key contributors to difference, and I mean just one, is that we all use our brains differently. Some people are naturally more logical in their approach to work and life, and some people are naturally more creative in their approach to work and life. We tend to label them 'left brainers' and 'right brainers'.It is not that we have different brain hemispheres, as all healthy people have both left and right hemispheres, but it means that we all tend to predominantly use either the left or the right hemisphere more, to different degrees.

Some say this is as a result of:

Our genetics, and since birth,our religious upbringing,our culture and values,our national society,our schooling,our life and work opportunities, the culture of organizations we work for, and so the list goes on.

So we tend to end up in situations and job occupations that are, say, predominantely logical, like for example, accounting, legal profession, or predominantely creative, like for example, designers and creative advertising, musicians, acting and film.

So this means that some people in a new project team may resonate more towards a more logical and planned approach to work, systems and tools, and some people in a team may resonate more towards a more intuitive and spontaneous approach to work, systems and tools.

Left brainers, generally speaking, are far more time conscious and more punctual to attend meetings, say, than right brainers. I over simplify to make a point.

Within this same spectrum, we have people who, as extreme left brainers are excellent as 'finishers' in a team project (dotting the i's and crossing the t's) and extreme right brainers as excellent creators of new radical ideas and innovators in the team. Some of us are naturally more extrovert and enjoy communicating with many others, and some of us are naturally more introvert and enjoy more our own company. And we all fit in somewhere along this spectrum.

So when we form a work team, and when we do not understand these differences, we can easily lead to conflict.

Let me give some examples of team conflict, in ways that we work together:

Some prefer/demand explicit logical and structured ways to work and others hate this and prefer unstructured spontaneous working
Some get upset because others are consistently late or do not keep to their alloted times
Some visit the collaborative team work spaces every hour and get frustrated because others visit once a week.

And so on.

The answer is to start a project team with a mindset that recognises and celebrates these common and natural differences. To then discuss with the team, physically if possible, otherwise virtually, an informal 'team contract' that all the team will buy-in to, that agrees the degree of structured and unstructured approach to the project, and then the best team working tools to support this,

Furthermore, at least, the team contract also includes the agreed minimum time that all members must visit the collaborative team space (say once an hour, day, week, month etc) depending on the nature of the project.

Furthermore, team members are encouraged to create on their profiles, their strengths and weaknesses, and any strong likes and dislikes, concerning their preferred approach to work.

The result, over time, is that team members will not enter into a stage of conflict of differences, but enjoy a celebration of differences.

In team development, we have learned well the four stages of effective team development as'forming, storming, norming and performing'.

Celebrating our differences is just one important way to reduce the 'storming' stage. I suggest that this does not happen enough naturally, so the project team leader needs to facilitate this process at the project start.

More on virtual team effectiveness to follow shortly.

More on effective knowledge working at

Monday, May 30, 2011

Unstructured Web 2.0 tools and structured systems

For some time now, I have been using and evaluating different 'Enterprise 2.0' systems.

This has led me to believe that Enterprise 2.0 has, potentially, some very powerful possibilities that go beyond Web 2.0, provided we approach it and think differently to standard web 2.0 usage.

In Web 2.0 we have separate tools, provided by separate providers. We can choose, and mix and match our tools to tweet, to blog, to create wiki's, to search, to be alerted, to collaborate in virtual teams, to conduct social bookmarking, social networking etc.

Because we tend to start with one tool, maybe blogging, we focus on the simple use of this until we gain confidence and understand its full potential. One by one, we may add these tools, initially, for simple reasons. But often, we only want to use one tool for one specific job.

The result is that we have people today on the Web who specialise, for example, as star bloggers with an enormous following and reputation as good writers, or thought leaders, or critics or whatever.

We have celebrities whose tweets are followed by fans.

People tweet from their phones to organize a revolution.

People use wikipedia as their online encyclopedia.

We use the social network facebook to keep connected to friends and their activities.

By and large, in our private lives, we use Web 2.0 tools to perform separate functions that help us communicate, learn and share in those areas that interest us.

They are hugely successful because they are each, very simple to get started, very intuitive, free at entry point, and enable us to participate globally, and to gain recognition to potentially huge audiences.

But now, through Enterprise initiatives, and pressures from private users of Web 2.0 tools, people are developing ways to use the same tools in the workplace, because as knowledge workers, we also need to find ways to better communicate, collaborate, learn and share knowledge and experiences, to help us become more productive, at least.

We start off by using the tools, one by one, in the workplace, for different activities. Frankly, if this improves our communications and ability to work better, in any way, that's simply great.

Eventually, however, some of us reach a stage that makes us think about how we could better use these separate tools by combining them, systematically, to create knowledge flows, perhaps to support our own work processes and knowledge deliverables?

But here, I suggest, we have to think differently from a simple to use and intuitive approach.

Here, we need BOTH unstructured AND structured information, we need to think both in intuitive and logical ways, we need both discovery and serendipity, and logical search and scanning, we need both creativity and innovation and knowledge management.

To me, its like the way our brains best function. Not totally logical (left hemisphere) and not totally creative (right hemisphere) but BOTH / AND. Interestingly, the Oxford Dictionary definition of genius is 'utilizing both the left brain and right brain faculties to the full'

So I suggest that successful Enterprise 2.0, if you are happy with that term, is beyond Web 2.0, and should allow BOTH free intuitive, informal, simple, unstructured, participation from which natural wisdom may emerge from the diverse crowds, on the one hand, AND logical, formal, structured process and review from experts and peer groups, working together towards organizational excellence. An organizational 'whole brain' approach.

What do you think?

Does this delight you or horrify you?

Could we start capturing ideas and blog learnings and insights spontaneously, yet within a framework towards structured knowledge flows towards Good Practices, for example?

In this case, the structure is achieved by chanelling the knowledge flow and knowledge objects towards managed wiki's, as well as self-managed wiki's, as appropriate.

Or should we restrict ourselves to the more unstructured usage only, as a key benefit to our work, and consider it as just one of the powerful tools to be used with other more structured tools in our organizations, to achieve specific objectives?

What's your take on this?

Ron Young

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My first successful experience of global knowledge sharing

It was actually in the early 1970's that I had my first successful experience of global knowledge sharing.

It happened by accident and through a great tragedy.

A very good friend and business colleague of mine was, like me, a passionate private pilot. But very sadly, he crashed and died with his wife and friends on board, in the misty hills and mountains of Snowdonia in Wales.

As the only computer programmer around that could understand his COBOL program, at the time, his employees asked me to keep running this main business application, to keep the company running.

This is how it worked.

Quite simply, all the major manufacturers of agricultural tractors, worldwide, all knew each other well. (Ford, Massey Ferguson, International Harvester, John Deere etc.) The agricultural industry was very old and mature indeed. As a result, most people had, at one time or another, worked also in several of the competitor companies.

The problem was that the tractor component manufacturers and the tractor manufacturers themselves were always either greatly overproducing or greatly underproducing to try to meet market demands.

So the manufacturers agreed to share, each month, their total shipments to their dealers and other production and distribution information and knowledge.

This was achieved by submitting their information, in strict confidence, to an independant computer bureau that would then produce the total picture without revealing the identity of the individual contributions. That was what I did each month.

It was perfect. It really helped tractor manufacturers and component manufacturers with their production. It saved lots of money. It increased efficiency and effectiveness.

This global information and knowledge sharing was so successful that within a few years only, we were running lots of global exchanges for all types of agricultural and construction machinery and equipment.

This really was a first successful experience of global knowledge sharing.

There was so much to be gained by collaborating and not just competing.

Eventually, the manufacturers gained enough confidence and trust in the exchange system that they even then started to reveal their identities to one another, and not just anonymous totals.

Unfortunately, this successful evolution of global information and knowledge sharing had to end.

The European Commission decided that there was nothing at all wrong with the global exchanges of information and knowledge, but it had been brought to their attention that the annual meetings we held, with all manufacturers present, could be a potential breeding ground for collusion on prices and market shares etc.

It got so bad that every manufacturer even had to fully report the next day if they even accidentally met a competitor anywhere at, say, a trade fair or any event.

Eventually, the manufacturers had to greatly reduce this activity into remote, anonymous, monthly submissions of broad information only. This was in order to comply with European Commission, Treaty of Rome Article 85, on unfair competition.

But that was a long time ago. And I imagine it was one of the first, if not the pioneering, global exchanges of information and knowledge which had, initially, huge business benefits and success.

Ultimately, it could not be sustained because of issues of 'ethics and trust'

What can we learn from this today in our 21st Century knowledge driven corporates, organizations and institutions?

Ron Young

More at:

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Knowledge Asset Management: two minute video

In December 2010, I was invited to speak at KM India, held in Bangalore.

During the conference, I was video interviewed.

Here is the first, a two minute introduction to Knowledge Asset Management, that distinguishes between flows of knowledge and explicit knowledge objects.

Ron Young

More at:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mass global collaboration at its very best


This morning I was blown away. In fact, I was in tears of joy.

I picked up from a tweet, from Don Tapscott author of MacroWikinomics, a link to a YouTube video.

I curiously followed it.

As a knowledge management practitioner since 1995, and particularly since the era of Web 2.0, I have been very interested in examples of mass collaboration that have emerged on the web. Popular examples are, of course, Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia of Life, Genome project etc.

Mass collaborations, in such volumes, and such degrees of diversity, all coming together, can often distil truth, or get very close indeed.

They can break the boundaries of human knowledge to something much bigger, totally disruptive and uncontrollable, like a sort of knowledge tsunami.

Well today I saw for the first time a video from a TED talk from Eric Whitacre: A virtual choir 2,000 voices strong. Each person sang alone to a score and conductor from around the world, and the individual video uploads were edited into one production.

The result is simply wonderful, and truly so much greater than the sum of the parts! A magnificent global mass collaboration.

Take a look at this 14 minute video of the talk and final music video’s.

What truth does this distil for you?

Ron Young

More info at:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Job: Knowledge Management Expert, The Netherlands, SABIC

A few years ago, I worked with helping SABIC in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, develop Knowledge Management competencies, and introduce KM initiatives into their research teams.

SABIC are expanding globally rapidly, expanding their KM activities, and now seek a Knowledge Management expert, based in the Netherlands.

Full details for the job application here

Ron Young

More info about KM at:

Friday, April 01, 2011

Will Jeju, S.Korea, be the next Singapore as a Knowledge Hub?

I am sitting in the airport lounge at Jeju airport, South Korea, waiting for a flight to Seoul, and then onwards to London.

After just three days on the island, I ask, will Jeju be the next Singapore, as a Knowledge Hub?

Why do I say this?

Jeju is an island on the southern tip of South Korea. If you look on a map you will see that it is a short flight to Seoul, to Beijing, to Shanghai and to Tokyo, all major capital cities of S.Korea, China and Japan, with very high populations.

Very significantly, in 2002, the Korean Government designated Jeju as the Free International City by recognising its value, and designated Jeju as the Special Self-Governing Province in 2006, the only exceptions being national defence, diplomacy and administration of justice.

There is indiscriminate(no tax) reduction in domestic and foreign capital.

Today, Jeju, like Singapore many years ago, has a relatively low population. Around 600,000 people live there. At the moment, about 10 million people visit Jeju each year as tourists.  It is currently the main business. This is because Jeju is a staggeringly beautiful natural island, with a great climate, and a wonderful and majestic Mt Halla soaring high to embrace the entire island. Locals rightfully boast that water flowing from it, anywhere on the island, makes people feel good just by simply drinking it with hands.

The Hallasan Nature Reserve is spectacular, and the ancient volcanoes and Lava Tubes are beyond words. It is no surprise that it is a declared UNESCO World natural heritage area.

But that is now. What about the future?

Well the vision is for a ‘Free International City centering on mankind, environment and knowledge’. The first phase will be completed this year, 2011.

Secondly, South Korea are the most advanced in the world today with internet connectivity and infrastructure investment.

Thirdly, the world class International Conference Centre is within 2 hrs flight from Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo. The international airport infrastructure is world class.

Most importantly, Jeju International City has six core projects:

1. High-Tech Science and Technology Complex

2. English Education City

3. Healthcare Town

4. Seogwipo Tourism Port

5. Resort-Type Residential Complex

6. Myths – History Theme Park

After 3 days on the island, what is my prediction?

I strongly suspect, at least, that Jeju could become the Knowledge Hub of North East Asia, as Singapore has become the Knowledge Hub of South East Asia.

And finally, of utmost importance for success and growth, is the natural hospitality of the people.

Our host, Mr Jun-Ho Kim, Director,International Cooperation Department, Korea Productivity Center, totally surprised us all with a ‘cultural tour’ after meetings. We were introduced to female divers offering fresh seafood with a  Korean drink I can only describe as very very good cold saki. I am sure the Koreans consider it better. We were introduced to very local eating. We were sped around the coastline in a jet boat. We attended a Korean circus, we had lunch on a floating seafood hotel, we climbed the peaks, and saw the famous setting sun.

If Jun-Ho Kim is a typical example of hospitality, the rest of the world had better watch out. But I suspect he is extraordinary, by any standards, even though the local people were, indeed, most friendly and kind.

If I get some spare cash I know where I will be investing it!

I think Jeju, S.Korea, is a place to watch carefully in the growing global knowledge and experience economy.

Good luck Jeju.

Ron Young

(PS I will be adding my photographs as soon as I get back to Europe.)

More information at:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

From Government to Collaborative Governance

A great new learning for me this week in South Korea is the notion of transformation that is taking place in the Public sector, from 'Government to Collaborative Governance'.

Working with Dr Shin Kim, Director, Office of International Cooperation and Public Relations, The Korea Institute of Public Administration, he explained:

'In South Korea,we are well advanced and familiar with all the major Knowledge Management theories, concepts, frameworks etc and what we are seeking is more practicality in our KM initiatives. South Korea has made substantial investments in IT and technology infrastructure, but doesn't yet have the application and practical implementation of effective knowledge management.

The Government realised that it has a new paradigm, from governing, from 'government' to realising that it cannot possibly be truly effective unless it fully collaborates with stakeholders in a new paradigm around collaborating ', hence the development of 'Collaborative Governance'.

I do like the notion of collaborative governance of knowledge in the Public sector.

Ron Young

more information at:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Japan Tsunami and effective Knowledge Management

I am writing this blogpost from Seoul airport, on my way to the South Korean island of Jeju.

There, I will be spending three days with the Asian Productivity Organisation, Korea Productivity Center, and KM and Innovation experts from Korea, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and myself from the UK.

We arranged this expert meeting in January 2011, and a key objective is to write a book, collaboratively, probably entitled 'KM and Public Sector Productivity' in Asia

I was contemplating this meeting from my home in SW France last week, and I thought, 'If only we could direct our meeting focus to effective KM in public emergency and disaster recovery services'.

Japan clearly leads the world with excellence in planning and managing earthquake emergencies and very advanced building design,but nobody predicted the severity of the earthquake or the devastating tsunami. So I am sure that there will be more lessons to be learned in these critical areas.

My interest in effective KM for such situations started when I was asked to assist the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction UNISDR (2009) with HQ in Geneva, Switzerland and working from Bangkok for the Asia Pacific Region. I was introduced to the 'Hyogo Framework' developed at a meeting in Japan to help national governments and agencies minimize disaster reduction through better knowledge and understanding, strategies and tools, to proactively anticipate, and therefore minimize, possible loss of life and economic loss.

Imagine my attention was immediately drawn when one of the experts from Tokyo, Japan, Mr Naoki Ogiwara, from Fuji-Xerox, commented on Facebook that he was looking forward to the meeting in Jeju and, could not think of a more appropriate topic effective 'KM in the Public Sector' considering the emergency situation in Japan.

It begs the question:

How can effective KM contribute even more to critical Public Sector services such as Nuclear Energy Management, Transportaion, Healthcare, Disaster Management, Emergency Social Services and much more in this area.

It will be interesting to see how our discussions go this week. I will keep posting on any significant developments.

Ron Young

More information at

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Competitive Collaboration in a Global Knowledge Economy

I presented a paper at KM Middle East 2011, in Abu Dhabi, 15-16th March 2011, entitled

'Competitive Collaboration in a Global Knowledge Economy'.

You may read this paper here

Ron Young

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cairo, Egypt, Mubarak and Knowledge Management?



Following the historic event that took place yesterday in Cairo, Egypt with President Mubarak stepping down, I feel compelled to write down and share some thoughts that I have about open knowledge flows, trust, open communications, and the power of mass collaboration.

In September last year, for the first time in my life, I had the privilege to travel to Cairo, Egypt to present a keynote paper at the KM Egypt Conference 2010. The theme of the conference was ‘Knowledge Management; a Catalyst for Innovation’.My presentation was entitled and focused on ‘Knowledge Management and Innovation in the Global Knowledge Economy’ The tracks, presentations and speakers can be found here. 

The conference was organised by The Egyptian Cabinet Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC), one of the distinguished think tanks in Egypt, which is primarily tasked with supporting decision-makers overs issues of relevance to economic, social and political reform. There were several hundred delegates with, mainly, a strong representation from government and public agencies. The conference was conducted under the auspices of His Excellency Dr Ahmed Nazif, The Prime Minister of Egypt and the conference keynote was delivered by Ahmed Darwish, Minister of State for Administrative Development, Egypt. It was an excellent conference and there was great participation by all. After discussions with many delegates and speakers, and the organisers IDSC, I left feeling certain that many people were very interested indeed in developing effective knowledge management strategies and implementations in their organisations.

I certainly do not want in this post, in any way, to deflect attention to the tremendous efforts and enormous feelings of the people in this historic revolution, as they have set a truly great example, not only for Egypt, but across the world, of people power and unity, individual human rights and freedom.

They should be very proud of this peaceful achievement and giant step towards a more democratic society, at last, and judging from their celebrations and exuberance in the Tahrir square last night, they are most happy indeed with their achievement.

But because I am a knowledge management consultant, and my primary role is to help individuals, teams, organisation and even nations and world regions, with better knowledge strategy understanding, development, and implementation, I cannot help but strongly see the world through a lens of knowledge and how it underlies and drives everything in society.

So, rather, my blog post today is not aimed to be political, but it is aimed at using these extraordinary historic events as lessons and strong examples, and reminders to us all, to briefly illustrate a few of the key principles of effective knowledge management.

I wish to remind us that TRUST in the lifeblood of any organisation, whether its a two person relationship, a small team, an organisation, or an entire country or world region.

Trust has to be earned. Trust cannot be learned. Trust creates the glue or stickiness of  a relationship and when trust breaks down, so does the relationship. Nothing could be more vivid than the clear loss of trust that a critical mass of people had in President Mubarak and I believe that this caused them to stay on in the square with such absolute determination that some said they would even die for this change.

And we will never forget that many did, of course.

This complete loss of trust propelled the people to refuse any level of negotiation from Mubarak. In other words, when trust is gone there is no two way negotiation at all. The relationship becomes irreconcilable.

The opposite of trust is FEAR and great doubt, and people cannot continue indefinitely in a very fearful environment.

But when there is, at least, sufficient trust, people will COMMUNICATE, and when there is good trust, people will COLLABORATE. When people are communicating and collaborating, especially when it is two way and frequent communications of rich information, they cannot help but LEARN and develop so much faster.

It was Jan Carlson, ex CEO of SAS, Scandinavian Airlines, who first taught me in the 1980’s a very powerful principle  “people without information cannot take responsibility, people with information cannot help but take responsibility”.

I believe that the new Social Media of today, especially Twitter and Facebook, Blogs and Wiki’s, do now play a very important and vital communications role in informing, and in teaching, and in organising people. So, of course, do mobile phones and texting etc, as they all greatly empower all individuals who have access to the internet, to a global degree never experienced in humanity before.

TV and radio and news media is a one-way ‘broadcast’ to the people.Social media has the ability for massive, collective, almost instantaneous, two way and multiple way shared communications. It has moved us from just a ‘SEND’ or push model to a new ‘SHARE’ or pull model.

Even in my personal example as a conference speaker, I am now very aware that it is simply not any more a one way stream of information from speaker to delegates, but, even more importantly, people are creating live conference tweets and blogging streams so that others connected to the internet can also benefit from the collective wisdom of the audiences, as they listen.

And finally, it is the case that when people sufficiently trust and communicate, and learn faster, and, as a result, they develop their knowledge, skills, confidence and competence faster, they ‘naturally’ want to share with others. This is perfect collaboration and massively powerful. Wikipedia is a great first example of global mass collaboration.

I believe that it is inevitable that all societies and countries in the world, when using these global communications tools and technologies, to better communicate, collaborate, learn faster and share their knowledge, will increasingly demand that the role of Government will be increasingly to ‘facilitate’ these communications of information and knowledge for the good of the whole. Governments will increasingly be expected to produce knowledge commons for its citizens. ‘Knowledge commons’ is about creating and sharing knowledge freely for all, for the common good of all, and for the sustainability of the planet.

What I have just described, I refer to as a virtuous upwards spiral. If you increase and improve any one of the elements of trust, open communications, learning and sharing knowledge, ALL the elements will increase even further.

However,if you suppress and decrease any of the elements it then becomes a vicious downward spiral, and eventually breaks down.

The historic events in Egypt illustrate both the vicious spiral downwards to destruction, based on lack of trust and restricted one way, infrequent communications, and the amazing power of this virtuous spiral upwards based on trust, open frequent two way communications, faster learning, confidence, competence, sharing knowledge and, ultimately effective mass collaboration.

Governments need to remind themselves to practice these principles of effective knowledge management, to facilitate a truly transparent, and virtuous, spiral of development and growth for its people.

What and who is next?

Ron Young

More information at:

Friday, January 28, 2011

Annual Lecture at CASS Business School, London, 24th January 2011



Well, it’s that time of the year again.

For the third year running, I gave my annual Knowledge Management lecture to 2nd year MBA students at CASS Business School, City University.

I always enjoy this time, primarily because it is very refreshing, always, to talk with students who have their lives and careers ahead of them, versus senior management of corporates, who, naturally through life long business experiences, have a more pragmatic, and even cynical business view. But, of course, we need the balance of fresh new, creative, no limits thinking, and knowledge and experiences from practical business realities.

But this year, I was even more conscious of the ‘one way’ channel of lecturing. This is because I am so much more conscious of the added power of more rapid, interactive, two-way, open discussion as a faster and richer way to learn. Of, course, I have no idea how much tweeting or blogging was going on whilst I was speaking (not much, judging from my direct questions to them about personal blogging and tweeting) but, generally, I felt ‘too one way’ and wanted to interact much more.

But afterwards, several students kindly complimented my talk and felt they had learned much, and I know that would not have been possible, to the same degree, if we had a different, and perhaps less focused, conversation.

At least, my lecture objectives for the students, were achieved.

So my new learning’s came at the end of the talk when I was questioned by students individually, and of course, through updating my lecture annually, based on new developments in KM as I travel the world.

My annual update lunch at CASS afterwards, with my long standing colleague Professor Clive Holtham, and lecturer Martin Rich, was a delight as always. Clive and I have one big thing in common, we both enjoy ‘walking meetings’, so much more invigorating, constructive and productive.

I look forward to my next CASS KM lecture.

My CASS lecture slides, and others, are available at: 

More information at my website

Ron Young

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rapid Knowledge Transfer across generations


So what do you think is happening here? Is grandad teaching grandson maybe?

Well I am the apprentice! My grandson Joel, in my opinion, is a ‘Master of the iPad’. He started as a three year old and he will be four in a few days. He has been using the iPad for several months on a daily basis. I received my iPad a couple of months ago as a present from his mum and dad.

He has been teaching me how to naturally, and intuitively, navigate, interact and play, in ways I do not get in any manual or book.

If you look at the pictures, what do you think we are doing on our iPads?

He is having fun, and learning fast,with an interactive educational game that he plays almost daily. Like all children, he loves fun and games. This is the way to learn. We learn so much faster when it’s fun.

Here is the paradox. ‘Fun is serious business in the 21st Century Knowledge Economy’.

I am landing a Boeing 747 jet into San Francisco airport using instruments. As a past pilot for 20 years, I now love flying the iPad flight simulator, to keep my skills fresh, and, I am having so much fun too. But instrument flying requires both intellectual and experiential skills.

But now, after Joel’s teaching,  I can fly the simulator even better!

What can we learn from this in effective learning and knowledge transfer for the future?

Ron Young

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tools have a major impact on our knowledge creation and transfer



First of all, I should say that it has been several months since my last blog, primarily because of an intensive honeymoon with Twitter over the past years. I thought it replaced blogging, and to a degree that is true for me. But, nevertheless, I have had a growing feeling inside that I needed to blog again. I realised again, the power and need to capture and organise my learning’s and insights in ways that blogs can do well. The interesting thing is that it has been new developments for me, in technology tools, that have brought me back to blogging (and tweeting). Let me explain a little more.

As a KM consultant, I still get bombarded by people who say KM is not about technology, its about people.

Well they are half right. People create and apply knowledge, but the tools can have a major impact, and make a huge difference to how we create and apply knowledge. In fact, technology has been the fundamental cause of a revolution in information and knowledge throughout the world. I need say no more than World Wide Web and mobile wireless communication and computing technologies.

In the continual pursuit of better tools for myself, for capturing, storing, sharing and applying knowledge, as an intense and passionate knowledge worker, I found a better way this month. This has made a great difference and improvement in my productivity and knowledge creation.

Before, I found it messy and time consuming to integrate my photo’s and words into blogs instantly. So, as a result, I didn’t do it very well.

Now I still take pictures on my iPhone, plug them into my Samsung Netbook while travelling, and using Windows Live Writer, I can simply post pictures and words and links into my blogs, and publish without thinking. I imagine you will say, ‘I have always been able to do that, so what?’. Well maybe the tools were there and I didn’t see them easily, but this one appeared and works for me fine.

Equally, last night, I discovered yet another amazing app on my iPad to draw creatively, called ‘Penultimate’. Together with the app iThoughtsHD, I am creating mindmaps again in a much better and naturally creative way.

My point is that it is these mobile wireless tools, together with global web technology and infrastructure, have made a major impact in my knowledge creation and publishing ability and productivity.

I look forward to more amazing tools for the knowledge worker.

Ron Young 

(PS The above pic is of a simple but miraculous free skype personal videoconference with my daughter Emma and our family)