New paper: Optimizing Knowledge Yield in the Digital Workplace


I am pleased to share a new paper that may be of interest:

Optimizing Knowledge Yield in the Digital Workplace
A new system design for thriving in the data-intensive universe

From the abstract:

The purpose of this paper is threefold. First, it briefly describes how the digital
workplace evolved in an incremental manner. Second, it discusses related structural
technical and economic challenges for individuals and organizations in the digital
workplace. Lastly, it summarizes how Kyield’s novel approach can serve to provide
exponential performance improvement.

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Innovation in the Enterprise


One of the better reports on innovation in the enterprise was published by PWC, so I wanted to share a link to it and provide a few comments.

Generally speaking this report supports most of the claims we’ve made at Kyield during our applied R&D journey, including knowledge systems, the power of semantic search, an integrated systems approach to the innovation challenge, and what the role of the CIO should be, among others.

What I do not see discussed is the importance of meritocracy, although to be fair to PWC they discuss it elsewhere in detail; nor is there much discussion on the need to protect the ideas of the best and brightest in social environments, without which those ideas are likely to exit and become disruptive.

In the digital world, despite the needs of individual members of the ecosystem, one cannot (nor should not attempt to) silo innovation from crisis prevention or meritocracy, meaning also the need to embrace management of internal cannibalism. Let’s not forget our important lessons of the broader needs of the economy with respect to creative destruction, or we will indeed likely continue to see a continuation of jumping from one systemic crisis to another. So while they have done better than most revealed publicly, it does not appear that they have completely mapped the innovation genome.

That said, this report by PWC is worth serious time and reflection. Their domain is after all, like thousands of other market leaders, frequently found in our web logs.

Mark Montgomery

Regulatory Failure on the Web; Consequences and Solutions


I have argued consistently since the mid 1990s that the global medium (combined Internet and Web) increasingly reflects the global economy and that rational, functional regulation is essential. I started this journey then with a very similar ideology to Alan Greenspan’s before the financial crisis; that self-regulation should be sufficient to prevent systemic crises, but unfortunately in practice it has failed to do so.

Most of the actual regulation in computer networking today is accomplished via manipulation of architecture in one form or another, but technical standards on the web are voluntary, as the Tech Review article The Web is Reborn highlights, which was apparently in response to the article The Web is Dead at Wired earlier in the year. In the U.S. we are really reliant primarily on one form of regulation on the web, other than proprietary architecture and voluntary standards, which is social. Social regulation has evolved with the consumer web, occasionally demonstrating some power—as was recently demonstrated with Facebook security issues, but social regulation has also proven to be self-destructive at times, particularly regarding sustainable economics and jobs. Few if any consumers can see how their actions on the web are impacting their own regional economy or industry, meaning that the blind is often leading the blind towards dangerous hazards in a similar fashion to the housing crisis. Ignorance is being exploited.

Two eras, opposing needs, yet same reaction

In order to provide some context with continuity let’s begin with the PC revolution about 30 years ago when the lack of interoperability allowed Microsoft to extend its growth from the operating system into productivity, communications, and eventually networking, forming one of the strongest strategic partnerships and business ecosystems in history.

During the PC era regulation was essentially outsourced to industry which employed a combination of proprietary computer code, strategic alliances and the failure of others to work together in a competitive manner to establish the standard, which of course led to a monopoly. The political, social and cultural dynamics at play were very interesting at the time, dominated by the view still common today that the only other option was government which couldn’t be relied upon to regulate technology.  It turns out that many other forms of regulation exist that can be learned from in natural sciences, physical sciences, social sciences, and architecture, among others.

Among the most important business lessons in the PC era was that Microsoft bet against the abilities of others to work together which when combined with strong execution was rewarded at historic levels. At the time I clearly recall arguments from investors, customers, government officials and even competitors agreeing with Microsoft that the PC revolution was too young for external regulation (which I heard again this week regarding the web), so “let the best man win”.  I myself said much the same then—not having the benefit of observing this case (and many others) in what is a very complex, quickly evolving environment.

In hindsight I believe we were correct regarding regulation in the PC era, but only for a very brief time—less than a decade; that’s how fast the big innovation door opened, scaled, and began to close. Our society cannot respond that quickly. This was new territory, just as the web would be a decade later.

In a very similar manner to the PC era the lack of regulation on the early web fostered a highly innovative environment during the very early days, but the era peaked much quicker on the web due to the toxic flood of capital during the inflation of the dot-com bubble; and the web was very quickly taken over by entrenched interests.  Opportunity still exists of course, but the dirty secret few discuss is that the failure rate for new IT ventures is very likely at an all time high—no credible statistics exist on the entire ecosystem to my knowledge; only portions thereof.  Of course knowledge, experience, relationships, resources and luck play a big role on outcomes, as usual, but lack of effective regulation generally favors and rewards predatory behavior.

The PC was sustaining innovation; the web is disruptive innovation

It’s important to understand that in the pre-network era economic alignment in desktop computing was primarily positive for everyone except direct competitors to Microsoft (or Intel in semiconductors), which was managed masterfully by a brilliant entrepreneur who became the world’s wealthiest human, and supported by many other brilliant people.  The world needed a standard for interoperability, and since few were negatively impacted the increases in productivity from authoritarian rule were viewed largely as positive within the social regulation realm, even if only for a brief time.  In hindsight government regulation failed not only to prevent the monopoly but also in resolving it. Government was then and still is today complicit in the creation and protection of  monopolies, regardless of how they form, particularly in the U.S. and EU within the IT cluster, which is I think driving future industry leaders to other countries.

Once monopoly power sets in it can be very destructive, including to the long-term company culture within the monopoly itself, which provides a strong case to manage market share very carefully.  The largest impact, however, is invisible, which usually manifests as aborted innovation within the specific market and industry, lack of adoption of competing technologies, and failed investment, which is evident today in most consolidated industries as reflected by very poor economic performance.

Failed regulation often leads to market failure, which is a real possibility for the web unless a sustainable economic structure is formed. This is essentially the argument behind the claim the “Web is dead”—with Chris Anderson suggesting that the Internet was moving over to wireless devices where a more viable economic structure is forming; customers are far more likely to pay for services rendered in the iPhone structure than the web structure.

As I have often argued since the commercialization of the web, the advertising industry is not nearly large enough to compensate for the economic displacement of industries from the disruption, particularly in the service dominated economies in the West.  Silicon Valley, Madison Ave, Wall St. and D.C. cultures still don’t seem to fully understand this reality and equation, or presumably policy would reflect it.  China and Germany on the other hand seem to understand the issue with abundant clarity, and are exploiting the situation brilliantly, as is India and others.  A nation does not want to be dependent upon a service economy within a global economy that is increasingly delivering services over an ad supported medium; particularly a nation deep in debt that is challenged educationally.

The often misunderstood lesson here is that the PC ecosystem was not a disruptive innovation but rather a sustaining innovation—meaning that it threatened very few. In direct contrast the web is very disruptive—not only to specific companies, but to entire industry clusters, regional, and national economies, which affects everyone on the planet.

Despite this extremely important difference, regulatory schemes reacting to the two very different situations are essentially the same, and will very likely result in a similar outcome unless regulation improves quickly, particularly relating to technical standardization.  As market share becomes more dominant in corporate cultures, so does hubris—the cultures become increasingly less influenced by voluntary standard processes or social regulation.  Eventually, as we’ve seen in our recent past, the monopoly cultures can even directly challenge the authority of sovereign governments with the potential exist for global companies to actually dominate national policy.  Currently Ireland provides a fine case study of why such a situation should be avoided.

I maintain that the winner-takes-all approach of the PC era would be catastrophic for the web and the global economy, perhaps even leading indirectly to civil disruption and conflict. Many wars have been fought over far less economic disruption so in a very real sense this issue is one of national and global security.

So is the web dead or reborn?

The web is primarily lost in a sea of confusion from lack of structure, which is largely due to the lack of effective regulation, which is in turn due to spin from those who benefit from the lack of regulation, and perhaps the impact of that spin on the ideology within our culture.  As in all previous standards wars free from effective regulation, a continuous battle rages, albeit somewhat more rational given the global nature of the beast than in previous sector or geographic standards wars.

In an invited letter to the editor in an upcoming issue of a leading publication, I will argue for functional regulation of the web relating to the creation and enforcement of technical standards, which are necessary to achieve security, privacy, and a host of other essential issues, including some degree of certainty for investors and entrepreneurs like myself.  It is far more important that credible independent standards exist than what the specific standards are, which is lost on the academic CS community almost entirely.  The current scheme is without power, glacial, and entirely without dependability, the latter of which is synonymous with credibility outside of academia.

I will save my detailed suggestions on how such a regulatory body might be structured for my book, but there is an emerging regulatory scheme on the web worth noting within the largest industry.  The U.S. health care legislation, as messy as it was, did empower the HHS to determine technical standards for electronic health records, which was tied to funding and reimbursement.  While substantially less than perfect, this standards process does appear to have the ability to gain traction due to a combination of initial funding, need for interoperable data, and leverage from other governments around the world to achieve a functional global standard.

Just one example of how this may occur is the relationship between life sciences, government regulation over drugs and devices, and the delivery of health care, all of which will require interoperability in order to function with any degree of efficiency.  In the current environment the health care technical standards process appears to be the most functional regulatory path towards adoption of a more intelligent web, aka the semantic web.

While we are all aware of the messiness of democracy, this alternate path towards regulation of standards on the web should not be viewed as a substitute for a rational, long-term solution.  Welcoming luck once it occurs is one thing; depending on it for survival quite another.  Our economy is too fragile and complex to depend on luck alone.  Conflicted interests simply cannot be trusted, whether corporate, academic, or otherwise.

Web 3.0 Leaders Look to the Year Ahead


Jenny Zaino at SemanticWeb.com asked a group of us to provide predictions for 2010. An interesting mix and worth a close look, particularly for those seeking input from the front lines of Web innovation.

Alternatives to the CKO


My response to Dave Snowden’s blog post on alternatives to the CKO:

Thought provoking and refreshing; rarely have found fresh thinking on this topic– we could have benefited greatly from your view over the past few years David as we struggled through our design work, which forced us to deal with these issues.

I came to some similar conclusions after years of R&D and thousands of discussions with organizations at the top, bottom, and in-between– might be of interest. We found that in most orgs the philosophy, process, and functions (intent of KM) need to be distributed, but each situation was different — at times radically different for pragmatic and necessary reasons (legal, security) — frankly causing the software architect some grief (me) until we over came the adaptability issue in an affordable manner (a recurring theme here and elsewhere).

Given that an enterprise or organization exists for a mission (albeit questionable at times), is a legal and economic entity, with management sometimes held accountable for policy and decisions, centralization of the CKO role is necessary. But like David suggests — we made a mistake even calling the module a CKO module — revealing the buzzword definition problem in KM circles — some took it the wrong way — did more damage than good in many cases. However, we were able to automate sufficient tasks that the centralized role is very much a part time position on the computing side, need not be conducted by a titled person (we know of a few dozen CKOs), and in many cases shouldn’t be– in some orgs that are so blessed to have capable leadership– I like the CEO taking that role as much as he/she is able. Again the need for adaptability, particularly in the digital work environment which is historically rigid– was a key.

The system design should include some centralization functions (in digital world or real– security, policy, legal, meritocracy), but also have a similar function enabling large business units, project team leaders, and last but certainly not least the individual, where most of the future value lives in modern organizations. From a KM perspective, dealing with how the org and individual personalization interact was among the most interesting of our design process.

I am agnostic on the revolving CKO issue, except that agree that whatever label one puts on it– everyone should be exposed to the learning organization philosophy — in order to convert that philosophy to reality however, we had to employ a deep systems approach to organizational design.

The primary challenges not only had to overcome the organizational challenges, but also the many — in some cases more difficult– in computing.

–allowing adaptability without needing to reprogram– essential for differentiality and affordability

–providing the ability to align interests between the individual/project/unit/ and org

–prevent empire building and all that comes with it — easier said than done

I worked on our system design for many years.. after two leading online learning networks. One key was interoperability between units and orgs, which required either a fairly predatory approach with entrenched vendors — very expensive integration, or adoption of ‘universal’ standards.

In the end I embraced the W3C standards for the semantic web– followed for years and they moved in the direction we needed to go, eventually providing most of the functionality we needed. Several start-ups embraced early and finally Oracle offered a major product, making it more doable — slowly but almost surely, adoption is occurring. Google just embraced a video standard for example.

 

An interesting related article by Jenny Zaino discusses two important benefits of a good semantic design– meritocracy, and crisis prevention.

Realize you are speaking organization and not only computational here, but given the intrusion of the beast into virtually every organization, unlike many in KM, I found these issues necessary to address in computing.

Thanks for the discussion – MM

Alternatives to the CKO continued…..

Understanding the Semantic Enterprise


I released a new white paper: Understanding the Semantic Enterprise (PDF)

The meaning of the word semantics in broader society involves
such a variety of contextual intent that it can obscure or
misrepresent the underlying science and technology, which can
then damage the integrity of the term and slow the adoption
process of essential innovation. This is particularly problematic
when overly promoted by evangelists to highly informed
knowledge workers and their organizations. 1 2 3

“The meaning of the word “semantics” in broader society involves such a variety of contextual intent that it can obscure or misrepresent the underlying science and technology, which can then damage the integrity of the term and slow the adoption process of essential innovation. This is particularly true when overly promoted to highly informed knowledge workers and their organizations.”

Download the rest of the paper here:

http://www.kyield.com/images/Understanding_the_Semantic_Enterprise_-_Kyield_White_Paper.pdf