Live conference blog continues…

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Continuing the live conference blog…Valdis Krebs of Inflow talked about the many types of real-life networks that can be analyzed, including studying cow disease contagion by which cows tend to hang out together as they eat, and the vast array of companies that Apple has brought together to create the iPod. His colleague Eszter Hargittai has researched liberal and conservative blogs in the US, and found – unsurprisingly – that they are as deeply divided as the US population seems to be. I then ran a Living Networks Forum, in which I first presented the ideas of the living networks, how we participate in the emerging global brain, and how collaborative filtering is enabling us to access the most stimulating, top-of-mind information and ideas of our collective consciousness. We then used a live Wiki, so everyone in the audience could contribute to the screen what they wanted to discuss with others at the conference. This led onto us selecting four topics – finding expertise, collaboration, identity and mobility, and network science – that groups gathered to discuss, explore, and create valuable connections between people and ideas. This is being followed by a conversation (as I write) between Esther Dyson, Edward Vielmetti of SocialText on social networks, looking at Flickr, which allows us to share photos with our friends, and many other spaces. A key theme being discussed is the evolving nature of personal networks. Esther believes that the technology is reducing friction in our relationships with our friends. However it also reduces friction in our relationships with those who are not our friends, so we need to create new conventions to contain our online relationships. This is a critical aspect of how our identities will evolve as social software enables us to relate more richly with those we choose to.

Live impressions from MeshForum 2005

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Some live impressions as I sit in the extremely interesting MeshForum 2005, blogging on the local WiFi network. Currently watching a video by the founder of the Yellow Arrow Project – an extremely cool global project that is a kind of collaborative filtering – people use yellow arrows to point out what’s worth looking at, and the arrows have codes that allow people to share their comments via mobile networks. Counts Media, the company behind the project, among many other interesting things does “mixed reality” gaming, which brings together real-life and online worlds. The conference kicked off with Dr Anna Nagurney, who works at UMass on Supernetworks, which is the science of how different types of networks relate at a higher level. An example is the choices that people make on telecommuting or physical commuting, that bring together both communication networks and transportation networks. These approaches are being applied across digital, transport, social, financial, migration and many other kinds of networks.

Blogging Goes Mainstream

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When I wrote Living Networks in 2002, opening with a description of how Macromedia was using blogs to disseminate information, blogging was to many a curiosity. Today almost everyone has heard of it, and it truly has become mainstream. Business Development Institute is running a Blogging Goes Mainstream conference in New York on May 3, featuring Microsoft star blogger Robert Scoble as keynote. I’ll be running a session at the conference on blogging and knowledge management.

MeshForum in Chicago

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As part of the whole shift to recognizing networks as central to everything, MeshForum is shaping up as a fantastic conference in Chicago this May 1-4. Shannon Clark is the driving force behind this, and he and his colleagues have brought together a fabulous array of content including social, business and biological networks. I’ll be running a Living Networks Forum session at lunch on May 2, just before a session on social networks run by Esther Dyson

The next phase of Social Network Analysis

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Rob Cross of University of Virginia, author of The Hidden Power of Social Networks, has formed the Network Roundtable, a consortium of at last count 40 leading organizations that are applying network approaches in areas including leadership, innovation, and client relationships. The kick-off meeting will be on April 27 in Boston. I will be presenting on our research project on enhancing client relationship teams. Applying network analysis promises to be one of the most powerful approaches to improving cross-selling capabilities and driving deeper, broader, more profitable client relationships. I am also beginning to delve into other applications of social networks, including industry associations, professional networks, and global industry networks. A lot more on this anon.

Preface to the Second Edition

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The second edition of Developing Knowledge Based Client Relationships will be launched in New York in June. Below is the preface to the second edition, which gives a good overview of what the book is about… Click on “Read more” below to see the full text.

Two chapters from the book will be posted on my website for free download shortly.

“As I write these words it is almost exactly five and a half years since I finished writing the first edition of this book. The release of the book in January 2000 helped launch a powerful wave of interest in the topic. Immediately after its release, the book was ranked #1 on Amazon.com from Australia for over two months, and since then has spent time on a range of Amazon.com bestseller lists, including the Deloitte & Touche bestseller list for over two years. Not long ago the book went into its fifth printing. The concept of knowledge-based relationships has now become a broadly acknowledged aspect of leading business thinking and practice. Many other threads came together to create this momentum, however I hope the detailed treatment of the topic in the first edition of this book helped to crystallize this emerging domain.

Much has happened since the first edition came out, certainly in terms of changes in the business environment, notably in the professional services landscape, and in how communication technologies are changing business relationships. However during that period, my thinking has evolved even more. Over many years of putting the ideas into practice…

…helping leading organizations to implement knowledge-based relationships, running workshops all over the world for some of the smartest people around, and speaking widely, I have learned a great deal on what works and doesn’t work. I also recognized that I needed to broaden the ambit of my work from the core concept of knowledge-based client relationships to everything that a professional firm must do to be successful in its client relationships.

The first key lesson is that even if you are brilliant at engaging in knowledge-based relationships with your clients, that doesn’t help you if your clients don’t recognize the value you can create for them through this deeper level of engagement. Professionals must lead their clients into knowledge-based relationships by demonstrating the value of collaboration. On every front, the future success of professional services firms will depend absolutely on the leadership capabilities within the firm. They must lead their clients into new ways of working, they must lead their professionals into combining their expertise collaboratively, and they must lead their industries by showing that new business models and approaches to value creation are possible and desirable. Thus the new subtitle of this book: “Leadership in Professional Services.” The subtitle of the original edition, “The Future of Professional Services,” still applies, as knowledge-based relationships are indeed the future of the professions. However the essence of this second edition is how to develop the leadership that will brings these kinds of professional relationships to reality.

One of the major shifts in the second edition is to focus far more on the immediate issues of professional services firms than on the broader issues of knowledge in business. The first edition brought many of the lessons of knowledge management into professional services and organizational relationships, in a way combining the domains. However the real value of the book is in its relevance to its core readership of practicing professionals. It is intended to help them enhance their client relationships, and build practices and firms that will prosper enormously in our burgeoning knowledge economy.

Since writing this book I have written a quite different book, Living Networks, on the implications for business of the connected economy. My work today falls into two domains. I am a specialist in professional services client relationships. And I am a generalist in helping executives understand how to create success in our swiftly-evolving global network economy. These two seemingly disparate themes in fact mesh together into a perfect unity. A networked world is nothing more than a set of relationships. In an intensely commoditized global economy, value creation will be increasingly concentrated in trusting, collaborative, knowledge-based relationships. Professional services, as the quintessential knowledge business, provides a perfect template and model for developing and implementing these kinds of relationships on a broad scale.

The changes to this second edition have resulted in a book that is almost half new material. In some ways I would have liked to have changed more, almost rewritten the entire book, however I also wanted to maintain the integrity of a book that has clearly struck a chord, and has sold consistently very well for five years. With two entirely new chapters, and half the remainder of the book heavily reworked, this second edition has truly been brought up to date and will be of great value to professional services and knowledge practitioners in a rapidly-evolving business environment. There are certainly many challenges ahead for every professional. But looking through the lens of knowledge-based relationships, I believe there are massive opportunities for those that can successfully implement deep, collaborative approaches to value-creation with their clients. I wish you all success on that path.”

Reawakening

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Apologies! It has been far too long since I’ve blogged. Hardly the dynamic stuff of the living networks… I’m sure anyone who has maintained a blog will have experienced the tug between the present urgency of demands like client work, and the broader importance of capturing and communicating a rich flow of ideas. For a while now immediate pressures have kept me below the surface, making my work less visible, but I intend to rekindle my blogging endeavors. Among the very interesting work so far this year, I’ve been working with some colleagues to take the top executives of a mid-tier financial institution through a scenario planning process to examine the company’s long-term future, and working with some of the leading client relationship teams of a global top 10 law firm to enhance their capabilities and approaches. All good stuff, but I want my ideas to flow more broadly…

To this end, I will be relaunching my blog and newsletter in May, including relocating the blog. Watch this space. In the meantime I’ll start to make this more dynamic.

On other fronts, coming up this June is the launch of the second edition of my first book, Developing Knowledge Based Client Relationships. I’ll post the preface to the second edition here shortly. I have also recently established a US corporation to enable me to better serve the US market. More on other projects, including new frames on social network analysis, coming soon.

Wall Street’s view of collaboration

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The BDI Collaboration in Financial Services conference in New York went extremely well, so much so that we intend to run it in London in late spring next year as well as in New York again exactly one year later on September 29, 2005. The conference review describes what happened on the day. Taking a few quick top-of-mind reflections from the event…

The success of the event shows that collaboration and collaboration technologies are recognized as critical issues across financial services. In an industry driven by information flows and deep expertise, allowing professionals in financial institutions and their clients to integrate their work and thinking is clearly the way things are heading. We began to touch on some of the implications for bank strategy and value-creation in the industry in the event; this theme will play a bigger role in our future conferences. However a dominant issue on the day was the regulatory compliance framework as blocking collaboration efforts. For many reasons this is the context within which financial institutions are currently working. In addition to regulators ensuring they are not blocking innovation in financial markets, banks must not allow the regime to put them off implementing approaches that will differentiate them in the eyes of their clients.

I was delighted that we had Steve Wallman as our lunch keynote speaker. I have long admired Steve’s work since when he was SEC Commissioner in 1994-97. This article in Forbes magazine from 1997 shows some of his deeply insightful thinking on intellectual capital, which is still integral to my perspectives on the future of intellectual capital reporting. At lunch the day before the conference someone told me Steve was the best speaker he’d ever seen. I used that anecdote when I introduced him, setting high expectations from the audience, but ones that he definitely met. See the conference review for a few more details on what he covered.

Collaboration in Financial Services conference in NYC

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Collaboration – technological and otherwise – is central to the future of the financial services. In order to address these issues, in conjunction with Business Development Institute and Michael Ross Associates, I am designing and co-organizing a one-day conference in New York on September 29 on Collaboration in Financial Services. Full details are at http://www.bdionline.com/cfs.

We have got a tremendous response to the event. The current key sponsors are Intralinks, I-Deal, Microsoft, Interactive Data Corp, Vignette, Broadvision, and FaceTime, together covering the key technologies that support collaboration in institutional financial services, including real-time collaboration such as IM in a trading environment, document collaboration in deal-making including M&A and syndication, and internal collaboration systems. Many of the leading investment banks, including Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, CSFB, Bank of America etc. etc. are involved. Banks now see collaboration as a key driver both internally, and externally with clients. While there are significant compliance and security issues in the short-term especially, the core issues are first technological, and then process, organizational, cultural, and strategic. Banks are recognizing these will be major shifts, and there is lots to do in gearing themselves up to address these issues.

The reality is that we are far from achieving the potential of collaboration technologies in the financial services industry. Much of the reason is standards battles have at times dramatically slowed progress. A classic example is instant messaging, which is already at the core of communication in many of the financial markets such as bond trading, but the reluctance of AOL, Yahoo, and MSN to enable interoperability between their instant messaging systems has placed severe constraints on how banks can implement these technologies. Many similar issues remain in other domains, including establishing collaborative workspaces for M&A and other complex deal-making.

Part of my vision for the conference is to contribute to the industry – comprising both banks and vendors – acknowledging and beginning to address some of these standards issues. The last high-level panel session of the day will focus specifically on creating an industry roadmap to enable greater benefit from collaborative technologies in the near future. This conference will be run annually, and we may also establish some kind of working committees to help further these agendas on an ongoing basis.

Hope to see you there!

The Future of Knowledge Management

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I recently wrote an article on The Future of Knowledge Management for the Australian Financial Review which has attracted substantial attention. It also been slightly adapted to be published in the current edition of the leading knowledge management journal, KM Review, as “The Five Key Frames for the Future of KM”, and once I get a moment free (!) will also adapt it for some other publications that have requested it.

The basic theme is that “knowledge management” is no longer the most useful name to apply to much of the work that has flourished in this broad domain. It’s always been too unwieldy a term and concept, and today we have a number of emerging frames that are more relevant and practical to today’s business challenges. The term “knowledge management” still has a long, solid future, however several of the more focused disciplines it has spawned offer more traction for business. One leading practitioner said that he is finding that companies are referring less and less to KM, with one of the terms succeeding it being “organizational effectiveness”. Indeed, that’s a central objective, and more focused thinking is more likely to get us there.

In October I’ll be speaking at KMWorld in Silicon Valley and ActKM – a leading government KM community and conference – in Canberra. During the late 1990s I was strongly associated with KM, and it’s around five years now that I’ve been endeavoring to move beyond that. It’s interesting that I’m being drawn back a little into that domain. Despite my misgivings on the terminology, there is much in KM that will continue to be immensely valuable in what absolutely is a knowledge-based economy.