Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Pirate's Dilemma

The delightful Connie Crosby of Crosby Group Consulting gave me this book on her recent trip to Boston. Matt Mason traces the current web 2.0 movement back to the 1970's punk rock culture. He starts with focus on a quote from punk fanzine Sniffin' Glue with a diagram showing three finger positions on the neck of a guitar with the caption:
"Here's one chord, here's two more, now form your own band."
In a 2.0 world, doing-it-yourself does not seem that radical anymore. Anyone can be published author on the web. You can jump onto Blogger and in a few minutes have a powerful web publishing platform up and running in a few minutes.

Mason looks to some early punk bands who played for themselves and your buddies. Then maybe a few friends come along. If other people come then great, but it does not matter that much because you are doing for yourself and few people close to you. Mason focuses mostly on music, but in the background I was thinking more about blogging and enterprise 2.0. It does not make much sense to put together and a print a book that only a few hundred people will read. That is a big deployment of capital with an improbable return on investment. With web 2.0 the capital for distribution and publishing is minimal. A blog with only a few hundred readers is successful.

It goes back to my post on Why Blog? It is about me capturing my ideas and sharing them with myself and sharing them with some friends and colleagues.
"Here's one post, here's two more, now form your own blog."
I also see the pirates taking over knowledge management. Knowledge management was about capturing the best documents and the best practice, vetting them and packaging them for distribution. There is a big hierarchy of command and control over what information gets published and who gets to see it.

Enterprise 2.0 breaks down that hierarchy. Essentially, anyone can publish information, comment on information and link pieces of information together. The 2.0 movement goes a long way to one of the challenges of knowledge management by making it easier to turn tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge. Turn it over to the pirates. Let them find, collect and distribute information inside the enterprise in the way that works best for them.

The knowledge management 2.0 movement is about reducing the "management" and enlarging the knowledge base. KM professionals should look to ways to reduce the hierarchy and the barriers to contribution. Hand KM over to the pirates.

You can read more of my take on the book at - Book Review: The Pirate's Dilemma.


  1. Doug -

    Knowledge manager as pirate! What a great concept. However, I imagine it will be a little counter-cultural in most law firms. How should we handle that challenge?

    - Mary

  2. Mary -

    I was thinking of knowledge managers as the press gangs forcing landlubbers onto sailing ships.

    Lawyers in law firms work with very little hierarchy is the structure. Sure there are partners, PARTNERS, associates and the like. But there is little direct reporting structure.

    Lawyers group themselves into gangs (sure, you may call them practice areas, client teams or case teams) as the desire for gold (sure, you can call it client work) appears.

    Get the lawyers onto the pirate ship where they gather their loot (knowledge resources) in a way that works best for them. Sure they will need share a portion of the booty with their fellow pirates.

    Knowledge managers should set up the system to share the booty, encourage more pirates to join, show off the best pirates, lead by example and create maps for other pirates to follow.


  3. Great post Doug. I am putting on any eye patch!

  4. Shaunna -

    To stick with the pirate theme, put down September 19 in your calendar. That is international talk like a pirate day.

    No, really it is.


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