|I started my blog in February 2003, about two years ago, because it was part of my job to investigate leading-edge developments in Knowledge Management (KM). This was at a time when my personal online time was dropping precipitously. I had set up ‘Profiles’ which sent all the news from the 5000 sources subscribed to by my employer, on 65 subjects of either business or personal interest to me, to my ‘personalized newspaper’ — a single web page which contained everything I needed to read. I also read the New York Times headlines, which I received by e-mail, and a few magazines — The New Yorker, Fast Company, Innovation Weekly, and Wired. Other than that I read books. That was it. I found online forums a waste of time, and had little cause to do any additional research. I never just ‘surfed the Net’. I was rarely online for more than 15 minutes a day (other than for e-mail). I had set up my own small website but only changed it once a year because no one read it anyway.
So when I read that blogs were the next big thing in KM I was dubious. It took an eternity even trying to understand what they were — everyone had their own definition that seemed to deliberately exclude most of the actual applications of the leading blogging tools. When I finally realized that blogs were simply online journals, I decided to start one to get a feel for what they were about, and to start reading them to assess their potential value to business. Since I have always had a passion for writing, my own blog quickly proved addictive: Not only could I easily post my writing, as often as I wanted, without learning about HTML — people actually read and commented on what I wrote! But it was only after I started learning about RSS — the ability to send blog content to personal subscription pages the same way my Profiles filtered, aggregated and delivered all the site-licensed content, that I realized blogging was also a robust electronic publishing and subscription medium. And both the tools and the content were essentially free. At that point I started posting articles on my blog about KM and Innovation (the other focus of my job), and was surprised to find that my readership went up as a result.
So I proposed to my employer that we do a blog pilot in the company, for the three groups that already had a ready-made audience, in the company and outside, for their content:
No sale. This was at a time when KM budgets were being slashed, and there was no money even for experiments unless there was an immediate and significant measurable payback.
Two years later these three constituencies remain the most likely candidates for Blogs in Business, yet few organizations have introduced them. Even the KM Directors I speak to, in a diverse range of industries, are unwilling to embrace blogs as a small but important part of their KM efforts.
Why not? So far it all comes down to bad timing (with the number of spectacular business failures, embarrassing leaks, disgraceful scandals, onerous new regulations and security challenges, this is not a great time to be proposing tools that enable a freer flow of business information), and Kotter 101: John Kotter in Leading Change explains that the two critical preconditions for a successful business change initiative are (1) a sense of urgency about a critical business problem and (2) executive sponsorship for the proposed solution.
Even if the timing of the explosion of the blogging phenomenon had been better, what is the great urgency for introducing blogs, yet another tool to send yet more content to people already overwhelmed by technology and information overload? What critical business problem are they solving? And what executive is going to sponsor and show the way, when most executives haven’t the time, skill or interest to go online at all?
It seems to me that, so far, Blogs in Business advocates have been targeting their proposals at the wrong quadrants (II and IV) of Covey’s urgent/important matrix. The irony is that blogging’s suitability to these contents is precisely what makes them such a popular personal hobby: At the end of the workday, people want to reflect and unwind, to think about things that are not urgent and which are either important but not really actionable (what most political blogs are about) or not really important either, but just interesting or entertaining (what most technology and other blogs are about). There are exceptions of course: last year’s US election campaign was certainly an urgent matter, but even there the really urgent stuff was done with social networking tools (like MeetUp) and on political activist websites (like MoveOn). Blogs were, and are, all talk and no action. They are not designed to address urgent matters.
As Covey points out, the focus of business attention is almost exclusively short-term (quadrants I and III). The best and fastest and most context rich way to obtain or transmit information is face to face or by telephone, or, in a pinch, IM. They are the media of urgency and they are not surprisingly the media through which most business (and almost all urgent business) is conducted. Blogs give you nice-to-know or interesting-to-know or fun-to-know (quadrant IV) information and occasionally need-to-know-but-not-urgently information (quadrant II). But no matter how brilliant your KM and Intranet architecture may be, when you need to know now, you don’t go online, you walk down the hall or pick up the phone or jump on an airplane.
The value propositions for blogs in business, as I summarized in an earlier post, are:
See what I mean? All nice-to-haves, but not enough urgency to survive the budget cuts.
I think, as a result, business will embrace blogs (1) when they finally do get an executive sponsor, and (2) when they have no choice. An executive sponsor who is passionate about blogs and has authority to move ‘pet’ projects forward can push blogging initiatives through even in the absence of a broad sense of urgency. The designers of blog tools could make this happen sooner if they reinvented the tools to improve worker productivity and work effectiveness — there is at least some sense of urgency about that. I’d love to be part of a design brainstorming session to create a blog-like tool that addressed many of the impediments to work effectiveness that are endemic in business today.
And even if that doesn’t happen, the day will come when business has no choice but to embrace blogs. For many on the front lines and in the junior ranks of business, blogs are already an indispensable part of keeping abreast of what’s happening in their area of specialty, of staying informed about trends and events at the ‘edge’ of their business that are increasingly important to success, and of peer-to-peer conversations and informal exchange of information and ideas. If business won’t accommodate them within the company’s information systems, people will find ‘work-arounds’ to allow them to get, share and exchange the ideas and information they need (non-urgently) anyway. And they’ll migrate to blog-friendly companies. So business will finally have to get smart and allow these ‘peripheral’ exchanges to be leveraged within the organization.
They might even discover there’s some money in it, and that there are some other fringe benefits to accommodating blogs as part of every employee’s work product and workflow: serendipitous learning, improved morale, deepening and broadening of expertise, and better quality and currency of information as authors keep ‘ownership’ of it instead of throwing it over the wall into big centralized repositories.
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My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
--- My Best 100 Posts --
Preparing for Civilization's End:
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Save the World Reading List
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
The Boiling Frog
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self:
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
The Fortune Teller (Short Story)
Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
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Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
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The Only Way There (Short Story)
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The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
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