Memorial Day

For those that paid the ultimate price for me to be free.

-Thank You


Learning to Make Pizza Starts with a Mop ~ Real Knowledge Transfer

I started working at 11 years old delivering the “Co-op City Times.”   The job really was awful and paid $35.00 in total.   I would wake up in the morning very early and go down the lobby of my building to either wait for or pick up the Saturday morning paper.  My job was to drop off the paper to every apartment in these three buildings.

800px-APARTMENTS_OF_-CO-OP_CITY,-_A_VAST_HOUSING_DEVELOPMENT_IN_THE_BRONX,_NOT_FAR_FROM_PELHAM._THESE_BUILDINGS_STAND_ON..._-_NARA_-_549766It would take me a few hours because I would have to go up and down the elevator to grab more papers from the lobby.   We had four elevators, two were called locals and two were express, I would essentially irritate residents in the building by holding the elevator and stopping on every floor.   There are twelve apartments on every floor in the X pattern,  so I would hold the elevator and run to drop three papers on all four sides, then back to the elevator and the next floor something like 34 x 3.


I really hated that job, but I sure liked the 35 bucks when I picked it up.   There were times that I would leave the papers in the lobby and not deliver them properly or skip floors by setting papers right near the elevator when I stopped on a floor.   What I learned through that experience wasn’t the disappointment from my mother (although she was upset with me) but that I had failed to do what I was supposed to do for a couple of thousand people (literally).  I didn’t realize that for the seniors, I just made it hard for them or for people that didn’t want to go out in the morning, that if they wanted the paper, they would have to go out to get it.   I don’t remember how this job ended but I think I had enough of lugging the papers around over 100 stories.   I didn’t have the patience or the understanding to just stick with this job and had ideas of some other work that was better!

I did some other paper job for a guy that owned a New York Times paper route, that was a story for another day.    Somehow, someway.. (oh my memory hurts)  I wound up in Joe’s Pizza Shop.

Making Pizza

My first day on the job and mostly what I remember was Joe handing me a rag.   “When am I going to learn how to make Pizza?”   Joe looked at me and said “You need to clean up the store and you need to mop the floor”    I wanted to make pizza, isn’t that why I took this job?

It seems to me that most jobs had a job role that I saw and wanted to be in right away.    I didn’t want to wait, I wanted to make pizza.   Joe was having none of that, he handed me a mop.   I would mop the floor and clean the tables looking over the counter at the guys throwing pizza in the air.   I wanted to throw pizza in the air.   They made it look easy and it was awesome.   These guys would always do tricks and the pizza was always perfect.


Every night I would come home from school and head to the pizza shop to work.   Every night I would clean and mop.   I was getting frustrated that Joe wasn’t teaching me to make pizza.   I was losing my patience and my stellar performance on the cleaning job was lacking.

Then and NOW.. 

As much as I wanted to make pizza on the job, I had to earn it.   Believe me, I hated that.   I didn’t like to have to earn anything, I just wanted to do things.   I don’t think that I was any different than this generation in that I wanted to do what I thought I could, right away.    I didn’t want to clean the tables or mop the floor.   I wanted to make the pizza.   Joe wasn’t giving in.    From his perspective, if I couldn’t do a simple thing like mop the floor properly, how could he trust me with the job that made his business what it was.   From my perspective, I didn’t take this stupid job to clean tables, I took it to make pizza and be cool.   A pizza shop in the Bronx is sort of a big deal.

I didn’t learn to make pizza in Joe’s shop.   He never taught me and eventually I didn’t work for him anymore.   I don’t really remember if he sent me home or if I left on my own but regardless, I wasn’t there anymore.  My mother was of course disappointed but when it was time for pizza, I would still go to Joe’s and I had to carry my sorry self in there to face the music every time I wanted delicious pizza.  In other words, she held ME accountable not Joe.

That is the difference between then and now.


If  Joe didn’t teach me how to make pizza today, I might have my mother run down there and talk to him.  Why isn’t Howie making pizza?  Why is he mopping the floors?   Who do you think you are having MY son cleaning your shop, don’t you think you should hire someone specifically to do this?    I would submit that the desires are exactly the same but our reaction as parents, leaders and business owners or corporate stakeholders is different.

Considerations for Leaders Today:

The younger generation doesn’t like the way business operates and instead of waiting for the system to change by nature, they try to change it by being aggressive.  The problem is that companies give in.    There is value in mopping the floor and it is far more important to learn to do things we don’t want to do over things that we think we want to do.

It is also reasonable to recognize that business itself is moving at a different pace than it did just a few years ago.  That being said,  market changes don’t always drive a  need to change overnight and alter successful behaviors in business.   If Joe had given me the leeway it would have been reasonable to consider that I may had tried to change his process in some way.  In other words,  change his business.   Whether your 8, 18 or 80 sometimes taking an inch could look more like a mile.

What would happen if organizations big and small stopped trying so hard to adjust and accommodate?    There is nothing scientific for what I am about to write,  it seems that companies are quick to put the squeeze on the older generations and are more concerned with the needs of the younger work force.   While that seems to make logical sense on one hand, the lesson from Joe says something very different.

**break break** story update:

I worked in another pizza place, it was in college.   I finally got to make pizza (thumb at Joe).   Actually, Joe had the laugh and didn’t know it.   He never taught me how to make pizza the way he made it.  His pizza was absolutely delicious, each slice was large and the cheese and sauce were always consistent.   You would fold a slice of this pizza and the red oil would literally drip streams over the plate.   You didn’t have to add garlic or oregano to his pizza, it stood on its own.    I worked nights in the SUNY Purchase North cafeteria making pizza every night.   I would try night after night to make pizza that tasted like Joe’s.    The pizza was pretty good, but it was never the same.  I simply couldn’t duplicate what I didn’t know.  It seems simple enough, cheese, sauce, seasonings, dough,  heat the oven and throw it in.

A lot of companies today are scratching their heads asking how to get the work force to transfer knowledge.   I personally won’t look to share information with people that aren’t willing to listen or haven’t earned their right to that information.   I enjoy sharing information but I want to know that when I share, it will result in something positive.  

Final Thought:

The best place from my perspective to look for clear understanding on the value of mopping (so to speak) is the military.  Although the military has   changed DRAMATICALLY over the years it still holds some of the characteristics that I am talking about here.

In a reddit forum a fresh officer asks for advice from a Non Commissioned Officer (enlisted for those who don’t speak military)

Here was one response :

We’ve got a new LT around who loves to help out with manual labor (raking leaves, shoveling snow, etc). She thinks she’s just “being part of the team” and helping out. Which is commendable, but the moment you (the officer) do that, you commit every enlisted person there to continuing that task until you stop. Because if a CSM or 1SG or even a PLT SGT comes around the corner and sees LT shoveling snow while joes are taking a smoke break or whatever, then shit will hit the fan. Obviously that’s a subjective thing, but realize what YOU do determines what your soldiers can or can’t do (consciously or subconsciously). Along that same route. If you are a PLT Leader or CO someday, and you know that the only reason your soldiers are still at work is that they’re waiting for you to show up somewhere (say the MOPO), and you KNOW you’re not going to make it there when you said you would and it’ll be in indeterminate time before you’ll make it, just cut them loose if it’s your call. I promise that nothing the LT says can’t also be said by their NCO. Just call up the NCO, tell them whatever you wanted to tell them, and cut them loose (again, if possible. It might not be your call or it might be something you NEED to do yourself).

If you read the NCO creed, the third paragraph starts with “Officers of my unit will have maximum time to accomplish their duties; they will not have to accomplish mine.” What you should take from this is this: trust in your NCOs to accomplish your mission. If you need to lay out power cables for an inventory, tell your NCO that THAT is the mission, then leave it to him/her to get done. You don’t need to micromanage. You give us the what, we’ll figure out the how.

Understand that many NCOs just won’t take you seriously. I’m sorry, but that’s just how it is. You’ll be treated with the respect that the rank on your chest has given you, but they won’t respect you as a leader unless they see you’re willing to learn how the army works, and put in your time learning the ropes before getting grandiose. Understand also that many of your NCOs will be older than you, and that just going to college doesn’t necessarily make you smarter than any of them. Hell, I’m of the opinion that most colleges these days are just money generating babysitting corporations. I’m sure I’m not alone in that respect.

According to your flair you’re in ROTC. Do not attempt to join in “war stories” about how tough ROTC is/was. It will backfire.

The only way that tacit knowledge transfer can occur with the people and technology of today is through trust.  No trust, no transfer.  Trust isn’t something that we get by being born and having wants, it is earned.    If I saw Joe today, I would thank him for his hard line.  It was good for me and it took a lot more lessons from others that had the same constitution for me to figure out that I had to learn to earn.

Personal KM and The Brain – Context Tools and Perception

Personal KM – What we think we know. 

Personal KM is now becoming an area of great interest for a number of reasons.   We are creating more information than ever before and from a business perspective it is difficult to understand and manage this information in context.  That being said, information and “data” is of great value.  A few years ago my team introduced some simple patterns of collaboration in order to scope and provide additional context on information relative to a project or program.   One of the first activities of the information management and gathering process is to set out and “discover” what is going on.  Where are we in the organization? What people are involved in a project?  What are the considerations relative to governance?  What is the project or program looking to achieve?  What does a successful outcome look like?   It is a lot of questions but fundamentally the questions drive more questions that will eventually shape what all of the information may mean to YOU(perception).   How are you affected(perception)?  What role and responsibility do you really have relative to what the project or program believes(perception)?  What can you do (perception)?   What tools can you use(awareness)?  What information in available to you(awareness)?  More and more questions and answers. When I start showing people architectures representing these concepts, they overwhelmingly respond in a similar way.   They seem to feel that for their specific work, that they don’t really need a pattern or that they already understand where they are relative to the program.  This is where Personal KM and perception comes into play and how important it is to people as individuals and the organizations they work for.  The next few areas of this blog will show you why.


This isn’t new but if you haven’t seen this please take a look at this 1 minute video before moving on.

What you think you know and what you know:

If you have watched the video, you may now be wondering.. what else am I missing? Once your brain has been notified that other things are happening in your world that you need to potentially pay attention to, you can be aware of these hidden ghosts and start to deal with them.   The key to awareness is knowing that we aren’t aware and looking for mechanisms and others to help raise our level of awareness.  At this moment in our humanity, it isn’t likely that we will be fully aware of any given situation.

Personal KM – Tacit Exchange:

When we learn something on a personal level we file it away and may not feel a need to share it with others.  Research indicates that Organization Knowledge Management (OKM) starts with Personal Knowledge Management (PKM). HKPKMResearch further indicates that “The basic concept of formalizing software agents to mediate the work processes usually handled by the human counterpart is by having the human counterpart to delegate the tasks to a software agent or multiple software agents. The conceptual model for agent-mediated research work processes commonly handled by human knowledge worker”  This is what the figure above is showing. The bottom line is that we are looking to automate or transfer as much information as we can to a system or systems of systems for reuse.  Additionally, people must enter information that they may not believe (perception) would be important and further they may not have incentive to share this personal information.  Keep in that we as people only know what we think we know and we may also know things that we may not realize that we know. 

More Tools:

I am asked often what tools I use for PKM and why I use them.  Going back to the original discussion point concerning the collaboration pattern, if I didn’t use tools and techniques , the pattern and information associated would be less valuable. The information becomes more valuable because of the conversion of information from tacit to explicit and because the explicit information is further validated by more than one person.  This increases the likelihood of greater awareness.  I generally use a few tools but the primary tool is “TheBrain.”Howietodacenter The Brain is a PKM tool that enables users to take traditional mind mapping to new level. This tool specifically allows for users to define objects and relationships quickly and tag those objects textually and visually. The focus on the “Plex” which is the main interface that allows the user to focus on the relationships on the central node. The central node is the place where the user pays attention. The relationships branch off in parent, child and jump relationships that can have one to many or many to many connections. Additionally the user can create “link types” and differentiate linkages by visual and textual methods. Through the use of tagging, visual line thickness, color and pictures the view in the Plex allows users to have a better understanding of the meaning behind the relationships. The Brain tool enables a multidimensional visual representation of objects and their relationships through a 2 dimensional interface. This interface allows for “stacking” which can increase the actual extensibility of the user experience into the 3rd dimension. This is important to understand because the relationships you see in the plex on a node or object may have other relationships behind them. When the human interacts with the interface and changes the view, the nature of these hidden relationships is revealed. Steve Zeoli has a great blog about his use of this tool (Welcome to Sherwood) where he makes very clear points on the brain and its uses.  Steve notes:

 Here are the ways you can associate information to a single Thought in TheBrain:

  1. Link child Thoughts — topics that flow from the Thought.
  2. Link parent Thoughts — topics from which the Thought flows.
  3. Link related or jump Thoughts — topics related in an unhierarchical way.
  4. Add notes in the Note tool.
  5. Attach as many URLs as you’d like.
  6. Attach almost any type of file: spreadsheets, text documents, PDFs, pictures, etc.
  7. Give the Thought a Type — make all urgent Thoughts red, for example.
  8. Give the Thought multiple Tags — Tags allow you to quickly find Thoughts that share a Tag.
  9. Use the calendar to associate date-specific events.
  10. Use links to define special relationships among the data.

Falling Short…

More context is always needed.   I have to always add tags and link types and relationships. I have used a blend between freemind or regular mind maps and The Brain for many years. Mind maps and Concept maps show a map view as if we are looking at a road map from the top down.  The Brain is almost like a GPS, where you are in the map and driving through it waypoint to waypoint.  For me, it doesn’t go far enough and there is a gap between my needs and what is available.  I would like to see or identify a node and from there in that view I would like to develop or define relationships as many to many or many to one.   I would like to query on that node to further define context or visually move the node and either perform some “what if” analysis or just visually see the connections from any x y z axis perspective.  I would like nodes themselves to be three dimensional, with the ability to pin relationships on any one area of the node.   I would like the tool to essentially show mapping over time and have more integrated functions with the calendar.    There are other areas that are gaps like when you cut and paste information or import /export.   I could go on about what I would like to see but with all the gaps in capability, it is the best thing for me to use right now. It does help me identify or become aware of connections that I would have previously overlooked.

Visual Understanding Environment 



changefatigue example Concept mapping –

Concept maps have their origin in the work of David Ausubel
(advanced organizers). The technique of concept mapping was developed by Joseph D Novak at Cornell. “Concept maps have their origin in the learning movement called constructivism. In particular, constructivists hold that prior knowledge is used as a framework to learn new knowledge. In essence, how we think influences how and what we learn. Concept maps identify the way we think, the way we see relationships between knowledge.” Grayson H. Walker, Concept Mapping and Curriculum Design, Teaching Resource Center, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

I use concept maps:

It is always (people, process, methods and tools) but I do love tools.  I use VUE in the same way as these guys use CMAPS at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, Pensacola Fl, 32502.

I also use a lot of other tools (as needed), if you want a list or have questions please email me.  

Back to the start:

If you are interested, here (KM Institute Final) is the hand out we gave during our talk at the KM Institute.  It talks a little about the collaboration pattern and our use of  The Brain.

We need PKM and we further need to filter and publish relevent information to our businesses or organizations.   This is very important to understand because WE ultimately decide what we are willing to put into the system and what WE are willing to share.  This is all about perception and perspective relative to the information.  I can think of many reasons why people would choose to hold off on sharing.  These are the concepts that we need to consider moving forward.   Most importantly, we need each other help validate what we think we know relative to what the group may think or what the facts are.

I want to point out that I believe an understanding of awareness, behavior modification, km drivers and tools as enablers will help increase real data value.  Personal KM and Perception enhancement may be a next step to KM!

This behavior brings a new level of fidelity to knowledge management and will help us deal with what is as opposed to what we believe.

Personal KM to Public KM (Do you like cold liver?)

We are even greater than the sum of all our parts  (Downloading our minds to machines) This will solve the problem.   What problem are we looking to solve again?

Have you ever thought or said words that can’t convey how you feel?

How does it feel to watch your child win at baseball?  How did it feel to graduate?  When you walked into your first job what did it smell like?   How do these things factor into your life at work and home?  How do you convey these concepts to others?  Five steps to understanding your thoughts or 10 best practices for doing something aren’t going to always get the message across.   In knowledge management, most of the time everything boils down to a list.  That is great!  What does it really mean though?  

We are lacking in passing on inherently tacit information.   We aren’t converting personal knowledge to public knowledge.   There are books and books on mechanisms associated with these concepts but I am writing today to simplify the message and bring some clarity of the situation out for YOU TO CONSIDER.

We are gathering lists today in organizations across the world to share information to make things go faster, work better, work smarter, increase a person’s knowledge, skills and abilities in short order.    Yet, with all this great and valuable information we are finding ourselves still missing something.  We are overlooking people themselves.   How can we communicate faster, better, more effectively, more efficiently..etc ?  Make a list!

Ok.. here is a list

Context = Food

  1. Go to store
  2. Get food that is yummy
  3. Put food in cart
  4. Place food on conveyor belt
  5. Pay for food
  6. Take food to vehicle
  7. Take food out of vehicle
  8. Get food to house
  9. Cook food
  10. Put food on table

Result = No one in the house likes undercooked liver and collards.

I will solve this problem RIGHT NOW

I am calling Microsoft and buying me a Sharepoint!

Here I go!


What did I get?

A secure place to store, organize, share, and access information from almost any device.

OH.. .so … umm did I just buy a place to err umm build lists of stuff?

Now I didn’t solve my problem..  What do I do?

Well, you see if I define the words or classify the list better.. I will solve my problem!


What is a Taxonomy?

A classification into ordered categories — see the link for more details

What it really means?

Spend more money..

How about now, did I solve my problem? NO? What do I do?

Add a search engine with semantics!~

Now I can search my lists better with more fidelity and I can even get lists of lists! I can even bring lists together and build new lists automatically!

What it really means?

Spend more money… 

How about I add a little to this..

Why does it matter?  Further, why does it matter to business? 

I heard recently that for some companies “everyone is disposable and/or dispensable” (Narcissist

For the Narcissist-You are Disposable

Each human being is unique. No one will ever be born who is exactly like you. Each human life is a precious mystery. There are many people who appreciate the special qualities of individuals.

Within families, it is fascinating to observe, that although the members share many common genes  and were born to the same parents, they can be very different in every way: physical constitution, temperament, disposition, physical stamina, attention span, sensory acuity, psychological resilience, emotional expression, empathic qualities. Appreciating and celebrating the uniqueness of each person is an integral part of our being fully human.

For most narcissists, one person is interchangeable with another. Everyone is disposable. The narcissist is only interested in what your uniqueness brings to his table. If you don’t fill the bill, he or she will find someone else. In his world everyone is expendable. He is the unique irreplaceable exalted being. Narcissists use people up. Their constant demands, cruelties and demeaning behaviors cause incredible stress to those who are living with them, especially spouses and children. Many of those who share close quarters with narcissists suffer from a variety of stress disorders: insomnia, anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, backaches. If the narcissist is given free rein, he or she can make you physically ill, mentally confused and psychologically distressed. It is up to you to decide that you deserve much better than this.

When the narcissist has used some one up—he has gotten everything he wants from an individual—valuable social and business contacts, property, access to wealth, entrees into circles of power–you will be discarded. The narcissist knows when the time is right for him to show you the door. After you have been thrown away in a cold and calculated manner, you are shocked, hurt, enraged; your life has been turned inside out. The narcissist doesn’t spend a moment on your psychological and/or financial demise. You are a non-person for him, not even a glint of memory. He has moved forward to embrace his next human narcissistic supply.

Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.

Now the people making the lists and putting lists in your Sharepoint sorta feel that they are worthless!

What problems am I solving now? 

What it really means?

Spend more money… 

OK.. Howie.. .I get your point.. enough already …  !~

Nope..  Let me add some other stuff here for you to consider.. Now to really make matters better you start a CHANGE initiative.  So, now you throw in big big changes over short periods of time.  Also, you are hiring new people who are young and fresh out of school.  There isn’t a lot of time to get them trained so you ask the older generation to hurry up and make lists!   While they are making these lists you are asking them to change, change, change and work longer hours and take pay cuts and also understand that they are actually worth less because they are replaceable.  They are old and they aren’t as valuable to the organization as they once were.

Those close to or over 40 years old are already actually economically challenged ( they may be forced like a lot of Boomers to stay in the workforce longer.  That means if they will have to be on their best while doing the job and they will need to shut up and color as well.

What it really means?

Whether a business is a large corporation, mom and pop, military or other, they need to STOP FOCUSING ON TOOLS and START FOCUSING ON 

Final Thought:

Can technology enable?  The answer is emphatically (YES)  

The technology can’t be the driver, it has to be an enabler…  I am not against Sharepoint or any other technology but I am against wasting untold amounts of money, time and effort on process, methods and tools that ignore people.

Enjoy your liver. 

The Doctor will See You Now – Context = Business Quick Fix

Chances are if you go to the doctor you will have a short conversation, a quick check up and some blood work.   When your results come back your doctor will call you in to discuss your findings.   If your doctor practices medicine as a modern practitioner and there are any problems found they will look to find a prescription for you to take.

Now take your medicine.

The same thing has happened in business.   Companies look at business indicators, take into consideration the technical factors and come up with technical and process oriented solutions to change the business in order to increase overall business effectiveness.

The result in both cases is that we treat symptoms and not the root problem.    The problem is that it is very costly and time-consuming to treat the problem.  Treating a symptom is fast and effective.   It is a quick fix solution that may delay or push back the need to address the root problem.    The problem is still there and both your doctor and business leader are just potentially exacerbating the situation by masking the problem.

“Take two business leadership books and call me at the end of the quarter.”

Why don’t we change our behavior?

I have been wrestling with this question for a long time.  I have read a lot of books and articles on this subject and my team and I have come up with ideas and tested them in the workplace.   It boils down to the same thing over and over.   It is about consideration for people relative to a quick dollar.

Let us say in the scenario first presented with the doctor that when you went in to the office, you spend more time and money up front with the doctor.   The doctor gives you a much longer diagnostic, they ask about your life and your family not in passing but in detail.  They talk to you about your food intake and your stress levels, they look at your schedule for work and home and they do some research on your life.   They would in this case look to learn more tacit information.   It costs too much money.  It will cost too much time.  It would be expensive for you and the doctor in many ways that doesn’t require a breakdown because this is something you already understand.

It is the same with business.  If the business has to invest a lot of time and resources even with a long-term vision, it won’t spend money on people.

That’s it!  People are the most important aspect of any business or practice but the way our world works today we look to think about short-term people strategies and short quick fixes.   This short-term thinking has been very expensive itself as it creates a whole slew of new problems and new technologies.

In every aspect of our lives we now look for short-term and quick solutions.   Think about it.   From 30 minute meals to 60 day exercise routines that will bring you quick results.   Take the pill and you will be better.  Buy a technical solution and it will fix your business.

If we are going to start seriously addressing the problems at work and at home, the first problem we need to really deal with is asking ourselves about what we are willing to invest.   We will have to ask ourselves how important the problem really is to us and how much time we want to even think about it.

If you want a quick fix and have a desire to pretend that everything is ok, take a pill and be on your way.  If you want to really deal with the issues at hand, there will be pain and sacrifice, there will be an investment on your part, and there will be tough choices.   The funny part about this second option is that other problems could come up and all your work could in fact be for nothing.   This is just reality.  Even with that being the case, what is the effort worth to you in the long run?

Start asking these questions and you may find out that it is worth more than you know.