Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Power of Pull

This is a cross-post from my blog on the Military Social Networking system milBook.

I had heard of the book The Power of Pull back in October at the Army Operational KM Conference. Prior to that, there was a post on milBook about a video of a lecture by one of the book's authors John Seely Brown. I finally got around to watching the video earlier this week and was very impressed by the concept and Brown's presentation.

I will base much of this post on a document on John's website that provides an excellent overview of the material. (John Seely Brown╩╝s Stanford Entrepreneur's Corner Talk of April 14 2010 and Thoughts on The Power of Pull by John Hagel, JSB and Lang Davison- © 2010 Cook Network Consultants)

Even with all these great online resources, I plan to purchase the book in order to learn more on the topic.

Here is a collection of the high points from the Cook Report:

The world is broken. Business doesn’t work anymore. Across the S&P 500, return on assets is headed toward zero. Wall Street goes on an unregulated tear and tanks the economy. Washington steps in and bails everyone out pushing the deficit to unthinkable heights. A monetarily fueled recovery is knocking at the edge but once more it will be jobless. These events render pretty well impossible any future resurrection of the mass production, centralized, top down, economy-of-scale version of the petroleum fueled, assembly line based, push economy that powered the world up to the point of the popping of the internet and housing bubbles. Everyone would like to understand:‘why did all these things break?” The Power of Pull explains the seeming inexplicable.

The book’s thesis is that a ‘big shift’ from push based, mass production, top down, economy of scale kinds of organizations is taking place. The digital micro-processor, internet based economy that has matured over the past 30 years has insinuated itself into the old style companies and enabled them to make changes that squeeze more efficiency out of the old models but that is in pursuit of a diminishing returns strategy as The Power of Pull explains. It shows how the productivity enhancements of our new digital infrastructure enable what he calls creative edge that can pull the no longer productive aspects of the core to innovative projects at the edge. Edge based skunk-works transform the core in this new world.

The Shift Index consists of three indices that quantify the three waves of the Big Shift - Foundation Index, Flow Index and Impact Index - each measured by a set of indicators:

The authors presume a very fluid economy rather than static one. If new knowledge gained through productive friction is the new fuel the new raw material and therefore the new currency then, in tracking it, you have a lot more to consider than you would if you were only tracking bags of cement from the quarries to the warehouse to the construction site. Knowledge “flows.” Amplifiers of these flows are found in indices of worker passion and social media activity.

Problem solving and strategy building is a central foundation for all business. With the very complex changes brought about by the Internet and the continuing exponential advance of computing (often involving new architectures) that the authors describe throughout their entire book, the old top-down ways, “push” based ways of doing this, are no longer very productive.

The authors say that the on going practice of business depends both on accessing resources and attracting new people and their passions. Doing this is of little value unless coupled with a third set of actions "that focus on driving performance rapidly to new levels. These practices involve participation in, and sometimes orchestration of, something we call “creation spaces” -- environments that effectively integrate teams within a broader learning ecology so that performance improvement accelerates as more participants join." [p.18]

To quote the authors: “we need to marry our passions with our professions in order to reach our potential... Passion in this context refers to a sustained deep commitment to achieving our full potential and greater capacity for self-expression in a domain that engages us on a personal level. As we make our passions of our professions, we may find our dispositions shifting ... Rather than dealing change as a threat and something to be feared we will find ourselves embracing change, recognizing its potential to drive us to even higher levels of performance.” [p. 21-22]

The new world that is emerging is one made almost inevitable by the technology but it is also a world where information is used very differently than in the pre-internet world. It is shared but the sharing is done with reciprocity. If the recipient doesn't get something in return eventually the sharing ceases.

The scalable efficiency of the 20th century (pre-digital) corporation is fundamentally at odds with the way that knowledge flows in an internet connected world. It creates a world where rewards, on the one hand, are gained by capturing, hoarding and controlling stocks of knowledge. This conflicts with the digitally enabled ability to use the new Internet based tools to capture, duplicate, distribute and create new information. In the 20th century economy rewards are based on hoarding and hierarchy rather than on problem solving. The closed proprietary model needed to protect the old style corporation helps to ensure that benefits of new tools and technologies are tied up in keeping people bound to old closed proprietary systems where lawyers are used to protect fortresses and kingdoms and to bar the creation of new wealth, this return on assets goes down because emphasis on billing systems and maximum extraction from “customers” goes up.

The digital internet creates alternative models and delivery mechanisms that permit disintermediation of corporations that spend money fighting change. The economy of scale in a pre-digital age becomes diseconomy of scale leading to the declining return on assets noted above.

All of this has a tremendous implications to the theory and practice of Knowledge Management. With knowledge flows being a key ingredient in a pull economy, the people that can put efficient processes in place to leverage the technology to outperform other organizations are the ones that are going to be successful. Another key part of KM that the concept of Pull affects is the idea of KM practitioners are going to be important agents of change. The transition from Push to Pull and the attendant Big Shift are going to require the ability to effectively manage change, and that is going to fall to the KM personnel in many cases. 

While most of the examples given throughout the Power of Pull material center around the Corporate world, these concepts are just as applicable to the Government and the Military. Fostering the "creation spaces" mentioned above is important for all types of organizations. Collections of passionate, talented individuals are going to form into the teams that will ensure organizational success.

This is just a general, brief overview of a very important concept. I anticipate posting more on this topic as I continue to study it. Once again, the Cook report cited above is an excellent source for more information.

On a totally unrelated topic, there is an online community for Federal Wave (FedWave) located here. You must apply for membership first at I will approve all reasonable requests for group access.Thanks to those of you who have already joined. FedWave and Apache Wave may be another transformational technology that could enable the Big Shift.

This has been a good year for me blog-wise as this is my 33rd post- a personal best. I know this isn't one of the most popular blogs on the Internet, and I do appreciate everyone that takes the time to read my online musings.

I wish you a wonderful 2011.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Novell Vibe- The Latest in Enterprise Collaboration

This is a cross-post from my blog on the Military Social Networking system milBook. I have also started a new blog on the new online space for FedWave here, which is restricted access for the time being.  

As a reminder, there is an online community for Federal Wave (FedWave) located here. You must apply for membership first at I will approve all reasonable requests for group access.

Novell Vibe is a new enterprise collaboration offering from Novell. Vibe is the combination of the Novell Pulse and Novell Teaming projects. It incorporates the Wave Federation Protocol in order to foster inter-operation with systems such as Apache Wave/ Wave in a Box (open source version of Google Wave) and SAP StreamWork.Vibe Beta was rolled out at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference on November 9, 2010. Here are some of the articles on Vibe that were published in conjunction with the announcement.

Novell revealed on November 22nd that it was being acquired by Attachmate. This should not affect Vibe product development.
This blog post will give a brief overview of the system. This is not a commercial endorsement for Novell or Vibe, but I will use their promotional material and documentation in different places throughout this post.

The Vibe User Guide definition: Novell Vibe cloud service is a real-time collaboration Web application that unites common communication, authoring, and social messaging tools. You can use Vibe to share documents, jointly have digital conversations, and interact through social media. At present, Novell only plans to offer Vibe in a Cloud version (Software as a Service -SaaS). An on-premise version is provisionally on the product roadmap for 2011.

The basic components of Vibe are as follows:

1. Profile/ Feed: One of the central pieces of Vibe is the user profile. This is a core concept in all Social Media, and Vibe does a good job combining profiles with enterprise authentication/ authorization (see also below).

When you first launch Novell Vibe, you see the Home view, which consists of the following sections:

As evidenced by the image, Vibe has a simple interface that should be easy for most users to understand and manipulate. Another important concept in Vibe is the idea of feeds, with your personal feed being where you can provide status updates similar to other Social Media tools (see also below). Also, Vibe can be configured to provide notifications on various types of activities using email or other methods.

2. Messaging: Messages are the method to communicate with other Novell Vibe cloud service users.Depending on who you want to view your message, Vibe enables you to send messages in various ways.To communicate on a broad level to all Vibe users who are following a given person (see below), a message can be sent to that user's personal feed.Like e-mail, Vibe enables you to send messages directly to specific users. When you send a direct
message, only message recipients can view the message.A message can be sent to a group by posting a message on any group feed. Users can combine these different modes as needed to get messages to desired combinations of users.

3. Following: Individuals can follow users and groups that interest them. When following users and groups, the most recent messages from those users and groups are displayed in the BigList. Depending on the user’s permission settings, they might need to approve followers. These followers can be organized in a variety of ways configurable by the user. This is another characteristic of Social Media addressed in Vibe.  

4. Groups: Groups in Novell Vibe cloud service consist of various users who share a common purpose. Many aspects of groups are configurable by users, and permissions can be set for various group members. Permissions define who can do what in connection with the group.Users can have a variety of roles in a group, such as administrator.

5. Working together in real time: Novell Vibe cloud service enables you to see when other users are online, when they are away, and when they are offline. Knowing when users are available makes real-time collaboration more efficient.Vibe enables multiple users to simultaneously edit the same message. Gadgets can enhance the functionality of messages, making them more rich and useful.

6. Find and Organize Information: Novell Vibe cloud service provides various ways that to organize user data.Tagging functionality in Vibe enables users to create different types of virtual containers for messages. Like using folders in e-mail, information can be categorized, and then retrieved and reviewed at a later time. Important messages can be marked with a star. Users can then filter the BigList to display only messages that have been marked with a star. Tables of contents enable individuals to create links to messages in the Vibe site. You can create tables of contents on a personal profile page, or on a group profile page. There are also various ways to filter and view messages based on multiple criteria.

7. Managing Files: Novell Vibe cloud service enables users to upload, share, and manage your personal and group files. Documents can be tagged and organized in different ways, and can be the subject of messages using functionality mentioned earlier. 

8. Selectively Limiting Access to Information: Some users might find that the default access rights in Novell Vibe cloud service are too open. They can limit access rights to messages and groups. In general all messages that are posted to a personal feed are visible to all users who are currently following that individual. Furthermore, users can edit messages if they are direct recipients of the message. There is a capability to send a private message to one or more Vibe users. This ensures that only those users you specifically send the message to are able to read it. In addition, users can make messages not editable. Only the message creator is able to edit the message. By default, all files that are added to the Files tab in the Home view are visible only to the user. One user cannot generally view another user’s files. When creating or editing a group, users can restrict access to the group by setting up the group permissions. There are properties that restrict who can see the group, who can follow the group, who can contribute to the group, and so forth.By default, anyone in the organization or anyone a user is currently following can follow that user. This setting can be changed to require users to get permission before they are added to the follower list. Also by default, anyone in the organization can send messages directly to a user, unless they modify a setting restricting this activity. All of this is very important to Enterprise and Government users.

However, one of the key attributes of Vibe is its ability to foster collaboration between different organizations. Vibe leverages the Wave Federation Protocol to provide interoperability with Google Wave, Apache Wave, SAP Streamwork, and other emerging Wave-based technologies. This has already been demonstrated in this video
that shows both how a typical use case for this inter-organization collaboration and how it looks from the user perspective. This will allow large organizations using an Enterprise system such as Vibe or StreamWork to work effectively with small entities using the open source Apache Wave or a similar system.

Again, this does not constitute a commercial endorsement of this product, and is strictly the opinion of the author. Please post your questions or comments below, and thanks for reading.