Leading Knowledge Management


The Basics

From a leadership perspective,  a KM lead needs to have the ability to execute.   Knowledge Management efforts are fundamentally about change.    Practically speaking, it is impossible to change anything without a clear vision and mission.  Knowledge Management should be part of the organizational DNA, not something we deliver but something we are.

In order to lead KM,  we need to understand the needs of the people and the needs of the business.   Today, we talk about Knowledge Management in terms of mobility or concepts related to “Digital.”    Fundamentally,  KM in motion is about the ability of an organization including its workforce to execute.   In order to accomplish large organizational goals and smaller individual goals,  people need data, information, knowledge and the ability to share it and collaborate in a way that is comfortable to them individually.

Every organization is different and in my experience the very basic building blocks are

  • Trust
  • Integrity
  • Respect

People leading KM or seeking to empower employees must have a seat at the table with senior leadership.   There have been many times that I had to “Seniorsplain” information to teams.   The differences between word of mouth and formal communications can have a dramatic impact on the workforce.

A few years ago, my team and I were just getting started in implementing a KM practice.  My team was learning a lot about KM itself and I was learning about the business.  I went out and interviewed leadership and my team started to meet with groups and talk about what KM more broadly.   We were met with resistance on almost all of the first meetings.   It took multiple meetings and clear messages from leadership for people to start to believe.   The Global CIO had discussions with his directs and they had discussions with their teams.    I met with all of them and we discussed ways to enhance, improve and optimize their individual areas without disruption.   The key factor was to add value without disruption.  Still many people didn’t believe me on the first handshake and I needed to continue to work with them to show proof.   It was a combination of proving value, building trusted relationships, showing up and being consistent that started to turn things in our favor.   Our CIO was willing to learn and he took some risks himself by advancing KM concepts and sharing these with his teams.

We spent a lot of time communicating, testing, learning, assessing and re-applying concepts.   Where we met resistance we either worked it out or moved on to leaders and teams that were more open minded.   Our practices were consistent,  we spent a lot of time learning and sharing and we added value by raising awareness across the organization and bringing teams together.

Organizational intelligence and ability is the essential lifeblood of any company.  It is often overlooked in practice but given a lot of lip service.  When an organization is charged and committed to KM, employees across the organization are aware of it.  It is much more difficult in large organizations and there is a misinterpretation or natural substitution of digital technologies as opposed to engagement.   This is further complicated by advances and changes in technologies and business itself.

Leading Knowledge Management takes patience, a strong desire to learn, a love of people, understanding, courage to speak to leadership, and courage to take risk.   If leaders don’t trust you, the teams won’t trust you.   If the teams don’t trust,  leaders will lose trust in you.

Organizational and leadership commitment, clear communications followed by associated consistent actions, and the ability to do what you need to do (including taking some risk), is how you lead Knowledge Management.

Note: Vinegar Tasters 

The image represents three different perspectives through an activity of tasting vinegar.  See more http://www.taoism.net/sanctuary/books/vintaste.htm.   Knowledge Management does not prescribe to a specific perspective but it seeks to illuminate and raise awareness holistically.


Categories KM

Bad Automation – It’s Here


Automation is Here

Go to a movie theater,  an airport, or an amusement park and you will experience more interaction with machines and less with human beings.    This may on the surface seem like a good thing but in terms of personal cost and experience, I believe it is harmful to customer experience and limits our ability to make choices.

Do you push or say “operator” when you are calling a company?

Most people when asked dislike dealing with machines vs talking to a human being. See http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/6-tips-to-reach-a-human-operator.html.   Nigel Clark even created a consumer business around this concept called http://www.pleasepress1.com.

Companies continue to use these services because most customers simply deal with it.

  1. The overall costs are lower or seem to be lower in the short run.
  2. The percentage of customers that get frustrated and leave may find that they have no place to go because many companies have gone to robotic services.
  3. Machine services are getting better and some people today may not even realize they are speaking to a machine.

From the business side of things, it makes sense and it makes the “board” happy to see operating costs decrease.  From the consumer side,  I argue that good customer experience is decreasing over time and that consumers are simply getting used to being treated like this.   Consider what you do in your life and how you deal with these situations.

From here,  I will just provide a few short examples of why automation at this time is bad for consumers and customer experience.

Air Travel

Airline companies have pushed customer experience to the brink.  They have pushed people so far emotionally and economically that they don’t want to fly.   When I was a child, my father would take me to the airport to watch the planes take off.   We would see people get dressed up to fly.  It wasn’t a bus service it was an experience .   When we did fly, it was fun and felt like an adventure.   I recall people clapping when the plane landed.   The pilot was a person that you would admire.

Today,  flying is miserable.   Consumers must deal with micro-transactions, unfair practices and treatment of passengers, limited choices and being forced to be physically and emotionally uncomfortable through the travel process.  On top of all of this,  since our world is increasingly unsafe,  consumers are forced to deal with being dehumanized and embarrassed as they line up as cattle to be inspected as they seek to get to their gate.

Automation is all over the airlines

  1. While choosing an airline or flight, it is very likely that you are dealing with a machine.   This is very normal today and the reason it is bad for consumers is because we are presented with choices and there is no negotiation.
  2. Once a consumer makes a choice and locks in, micro-transactions can begin to take place and consumers now only have two options,  choose to continue or choose to discontinue the overall transaction.  If they choose to discontinue the overall transaction,  there may be a fee (most likely).
  3. Through the process of physically getting a ticket,  confirming a seat,  tagging baggage more recently weighing baggage, it is likely that a consumer deals with a machine vs a person.

Why is this a problem?

On recent travel,  I had a problem confirming my flight on the website and application.   When I called the airline, I had no person I could talk to and the machine just kept telling me that I had to solve my problem at the airport.  I spent a lot of time going back over my information to make sure, I didn’t miss anything.  I also kept going back to the website to continue trying just in case it was a technical issue or a timing issue.   After many attempts over time, I was able to resolve the problem but I am not sure how.  I just kept trying.

When I got to the airport,  there were several lines but I couldn’t tell if I needed to get in line or not because I had already confirmed and simply needed to drop off a bag.   Asking another passenger a question is the natural thing to do because maybe they know something I don’t.   Of course they don’t know, they are just guessing like the rest of us.  So,  I took a chance and went to the short line where they receive baggage.  Luckily, there was a person there and she took my bag.   Other passengers noticed my “airline courage” and followed over to the short line.    When the person took my bag and placed it on the scale she said “It is 2 kilograms over, please be sure to take something out on your way home, I will let you through now.”

I was thankful that she took the bag and didn’t make me open it or pay $300.00 more for 4 extra pounds.   Here is the reason why she told me to be careful on the way home.


On the way home, there are no people only machines.   We are to tag and bag our own baggage and if it weighs more,  you pay.  There is no negotiation and no discussion only 0 or 1.

As a side note,  over 90% of the trip home including security was automated.  There were only 2-3 times that we interacted with a person.

I am not inclined to take a trip like this again as I felt like a unique id being fed through a physical manifestation of something digital.



There was a time that parents would hand kids a few bucks and drop them off at the movie theater.  The movies represented a lot of things, it was a way to get out for a little while and immerse yourself in a new world.  Maybe we would go on a date and share some popcorn or even take the whole family.

Today going to the movies is a whole production in itself.   The experience in the theater is one thing but the experience to get the tickets is a whole ordeal within itself.   We can use services like Fandango to buy tickets ahead of time.   Print the tickets or use an app.  While this seems convenient and practical it is very expensive.  An average trip to the movies for my family is over $75.00 between tickets, popcorn etc.   Automation has made things worse.

On a recent trip to the theater,  I decided I would go directly to theater with my family because it is likely that the theaters do not put special pricing on sites like Fandango.

“The availability of military and student discount tickets is controlled by each individual theater, not by Fandango. To see if any discounts are being offered for your theater for purchases made via Fandango, click on a red show time to begin the purchase process. All available ticket categories will be displayed on the subsequent page. Look for ticket categories labeled “military discount” and “student discount,” or similarly named categories which would indicate a specially priced ticket.

Please be aware that not all theaters make student and military discounts available through Fandango. Many theaters offer these discounts exclusively at their box office. We suggest that you check with your local theater for their military and student discount policy and availability. Individual theater phone numbers can be found by clicking on the corresponding blue theater name.” http://fandango.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/144/~/military/student-discounts

When I went to my local theater,  I had the expectation that a person would be at the window and that I could get the discounts that I had expected before.  What I found was a kiosk.


When I walked up to the kiosk,  it said “Welcome Mr. Cohen, so happy to see you, Alexa told us you would be here and we tracked your vehicle and estimated your arrival, based on your previous movie choices, we believe that you, your children and your wife would like to see Spiderman.”   Just kidding, it didn’t say that but I tell you what it didn’t say “DISCOUNT.”   There were no discounted tickets and the kiosk itself has a service charge.  Technically,  you can pre-order popcorn or whatever else you want on there as well but choices are limited.


Combine the “decoy effect” with automation and you have a perfect opportunity!

We always have the choice to stay home or pay the extra money,  what I am talking about is the experience.    I enjoy talking to the young kids at the counter that are working their first job.  I enjoy asking for other options.

Where else?

Home improvement stores,  Pharmacy (they hand you a paper and you may not even talk to a pharmacist any longer),  Doctors office,  grocery stores,  bowling alley, gas station, and work.   Automation and the reduction of people in the workforce is accelerating day by day.    Some of this is intelligent but most of it is not.    Consumers are constantly getting hit with less choice, no opportunities to negotiate or discuss, less opportunity to interact with human being and less opportunity to benefit from a transaction.

Most people are asked to agree to things electronically that are overwhelming thought automation as well.   People are so used to hitting electronic licensing agreements that they simply don’t read, they just say “yes.”   Recently,  22,000 people agreed to scoop poo and clean toilets for free wifi. Free Wifi.


Maybe this was a little long but I hope you realize that this impacts you and it is important to understand what is happening.    It will only get worse over time as we become more numb and tolerant to automation.

Recently a television commercial for a security system has a woman calling asking for help as someone just broke into her house, the machine answered and told her that she was in the wrong department.

Automation is here and it is advancing too quickly.   What happens when your mother receives a robocall from the lab diagnostic services.  “Hello, Mrs. Weaver,  we hope you are having a wonderful day, your lab results are in and they are x,y,z.  Your death is estimated in 5.35 weeks, 2 hours and 3 seconds.  If you have any questions about your results please contact our lab health center or find us on line at http://www.fastlabz.com.”

Consumers are being treated like unique identified targets vs customers.   Analytics is replacing the idea of individual interaction.  Customization is really about the presentation of limited options that are terminus as opposed to having room to move in directions that are not prepacked.   As more companies go down this road, consumer choice will actually continue to decrease over time.   This impacts work life and home life and it impacts the quality of an experience.

If you disagree please like this post, if you agree please like this post.









First 100 Days



Recently,  I went over the steps I took as I started my job at Chubb Insurance.  I was brought in by senior IT leadership to address challenges of transformation and change using tools, techniques and practices derived from Knowledge Management.

I quickly realized on my first day that I would need a consistent approach to gather information, listen, learn, think, engage and share with peers, team members and leadership.

Mark Friedman is an Executive Coach and Leadership Development expert.   I worked with Mark all through the hiring process and I asked him if he had advice for my first few weeks on the floor at Chubb.   He helped me think through a comprehensive approach and provided some tools to use.

There are many things to do on the first 100 days but I found a few simple steps most helpful.   I was able to determine quickly who would help me and where there would be some challenges.   I modified the worksheet that Mark provided to me for my own use.  I simply started at the top and worked my way down.

 100-day checklist


Up: _____________

Across: _________

Down: __________


Personal set up:_______________

Meet live:   ____________________

Phone calls: ___________________


Info/Documents: _____________________

Day One:  ______________________________

First Week(s): __________________________


Strategic Capacity

Mission / Vision / Scope and Organizational| Business objectives

Tactical Capacity

Building Blocks:



BURNING IMPERATIVE in place (by day 30): _____________

MILESTONES set (by day 45): _____________________________

Team ROLES assessed & aligned (by day 70): _____________

Team CULTURE/Communication steps: ___________________


I wrote up an interview template and set up introductory meetings that were designed for 15-20 minutes.

My biggest advocate and supporter was the Global CIO.  I sought advice as I ran into challenges and started developing a map related to the questions of the first 100 days.


There were many opportunities created through this activity.   Building relationships and listening were key factors.

The first 100 days helped me understand where I fit in the organization and the challenges I faced.   This activity helped me determine where I needed to start and it was a driver for me to make the phone calls and sit with people all across the company.   Most of the best information and guidance came from the Executive Assistants.

If you have questions, or want to see more of the tools I used and examples of products I produced, please let me know.

100-DAYS-WHITE-PAPER (Here is another useful guide from intelligent executive.com)

Why Every Leader Should Build a RetroPi


It is estimated that the number of mobile phone users in the world is expected to pass the five billion mark by 2019.   The level of interaction with technology creates an illusion of understanding.   Expert users are not expert technologists.

Many senior leaders don’t claim to be expert technologists but when it comes to technology decisions it has become much easier to have an informed opinion on technology whether for design or desired outcome.   This has put a great strain on IT because technology while magical is not magic.   It takes hard work,  a great deal of thought and planning.   Even if agile methodologies are applied,  requirements matter.

In this world of 140 characters or less,  it is safe to say that some folks reading this blog if uninterested would have disengaged about eight sentences ago.    The expectation today is that everything will happen quickly and it will be exactly what was expected or we disengage and find something else.   This is one of many reasons that IT is suffering in large companies today.  CIO’s are fighting subscription or licensed services for solution delivery.   It is true that cloud services and licensed subscription models have great benefit but acquisition of these services still require strategic thinking.

A simple exercise in building a small and usable gaming system will demonstrate end to end implementation of easy to acquire technology and show how important strategic planning and understanding of technology is relative to projects small, medium or large.

Many leaders in industry are walking away from IT and looking to make IT decisions on their own.   They can use their own budget and solve their own problem without IT.  In some instances where risk is low, they can do this with very little impact.  In most cases, they find a need to bring IT in at either the end of the purchase or when they need to actually implement.  This creates contention and can impact their ability to get the software or services they wanted in the first place.   The underlying question is “Why can’t I do here what I do at home”?   Anyone feel free to comment on this .. but the various reasons should be addressed in another blog at some point.   

If industry  / business leaders want to make decisions in technology, they should become familiar with what it takes to compose and implement solutions.  I am not saying they should become IT experts but my contention is leaders should know their desired outcome relative to the environment they are in.    An info-graphic on AI can drive me to put Alexa in my home but this is very different from me deploying Alexa in my company.   As a leader, I need to understand the differences to make an informed and economically sound and viable decision.

Making it Real

The Raspberry Pi is a small computer that you can purchase for as low as $10.00.

The Raspberry Pi has free open source operating systems that you can download for many uses.   One of the operating systems available has software called RetroPi.  With RetroPi you can build a system that plays thousands of games from many of the older popular gaming systems.

You can get as fancy as you like depending on your desired result.


or you can keep it simple


Either way,  it is learning experience that incorporates some very basic skills using technology to accomplish a relatively simple goal.

Leadership that seeks to use technologies to enable and grow their business should have a tacit understanding of this kind of project.

Some factors to consider here are

  1. Instructions are readily available both written and video (Build a Pi)
  2. The operating system is no cost and easy to install
  3. The software is pre-configured and highly intuitive
  4. The estimated time to completion is 10 minutes (That’s fast)

Results May Vary

Here we have a simple project that should take 10 minutes to employ.  It will result in countless hours of fun and entertainment for the family and for those who enjoy retro games, it will save hundreds of dollars in purchasing a retro console.  It meets most of the criteria asked from technology companies and IT today.  It has the makings of a perfect simple technology implementation.

Side note, below is my machine that I built..


Innovation in Iceland


Geothermal Energy ~ Relaxing Spa

Iceland is powered by an endless supply of heat supplied by geothermal energy by volcanic activity.    It also has a geothermal energy plant with an adjoining resort and spa.

Hidden away across a landscape of lava rock and a sea of smoke billowing up from the ground,  is a geothermal energy facility.   According to Wikipedia “The spa is located in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula, southwestern Iceland. Bláa lónið is situated approximately 20 km (12 mi) from the Keflavík International Airport and 39 km (24 mi) from the capital city of Reykjavík, roughly a 21-minute drive from the airport and a 50-minute drive from Reykjavík.”

The water is renewed almost every two days and stays between 98-104 degrees Fahrenheit or 37-40 C all year round.

The plant produced “waste water” that appears blue due to the silica and minerals in the water.   At some point between 1976 and 1981, someone decided to go into the waste water and bathe in it.   Most people overlook this fact.   Someone at some point in time traveled to this area literally miles from everything and decided to take a dip in electric blue hot waste water.  




The blue lagoon is so popular today, if you don’t reserve a spot there is a good chance you will not get in.   The prices range from $61.00 to over $500.00 just to get in and have a dip.    The place is jam packed and open until midnight in the summer time.  Since Iceland has perpetual light in the summer time,  it is bright out and inviting through the whole day.

The place is growing as well.  They are building private areas and expanding the hotel and luxury environment.    This has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world.

The blue lagoon even has science to back their case the-history-of-blue-lagoon-in-svartsengi


  • The electric energy created from the plant is produced through the costs of maintaining systems that capture the heat energy from the ground water.
  • The waste water is discharged into pools that create new revenue by tourism and those seeking the “healing waters” of the silica and minerals produced by the plant.
  • The ecosystem of revenue and commerce this energy plant / spa is producing is limitless.
    • Food and beverage
    • Hotel
    • Car rental
    • Expanded travel

This growth and expansion is based on waste water.   As tourism is increasing in Iceland in ways that their current infrastructure has to grow exponentially to support, there are more demands for energy as well.   This system is feeding itself and growing.   Iceland is becoming a very popular travel destination.

Something to note, at any given time over between 20 and 40% of the people in Iceland are tourists.    Iceland is also getting heavily involved in cloud computing.   Think about it,  low power costs,  low costs for cooling data centers makes for low cost data centers.

Bitcoin farming / mining is cheap and since the infrastructure already exists,  this place is primed for the future.

Icelandic people are also innovating in other ways.   People are starting to use electric cars and they also charging for micro-services including in some places charging for the use of a bathroom.

I think Iceland is country to watch.   I don’t have any predictions but as one European tourist said to me in casual passing “Howie,  we came here because we think this is a great place to go with very little chance of terrorism.”      Seems like Iceland has many appealing qualities including safety, openness for sexuality,  growing infrastructure and they are innovating to make the country perpetually attractive.

Now the only thing left for them to do is keep the ISK in check ..