Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Open Source Community Development Challenges

A colleague of mine pointed me to an interesting post titled Resource Fetishism by Jono, who is Ubuntu Community Manager for Canonical, and looks after the world-wide community of Ubuntu contributors and developers. (Ubuntu is a community developed Linux-based operating system).

In his post, Jono paints this common problem:

Its funny how the same approximate process seems to happen for many communities, and sub-communities in projects. It happens a little like this:

  • A new team forms from a small group of enthusiasts.
  • They create a raft of resources - version control, repositories, mailing lists, IRC channels, bug trackers, councils, forums etc.
  • A discussion happens on the new mailing list about which website CMS to use.
  • The discussion lasts approximately a month. There are many opinions. Bickering ensues. It turns into a Drupal vs. Wordpress war.
  • Two months pass, little has been achieved other than yet more CMS arguments archived to the Internet.

The problem here is a lack of focus on what is important - building a team.

So, obviously the challenges of "community" building exist as much in the open-source world as inside organizations.

One of the advantages of Web 2.0 inside the enterprise is how reportedly easy the tools are to use for a variety of purposes. Emerging best practice studies point to bringing together a tool "suite" and letting users pick the right one for the situation / task at hand, but there is potential for debate on tools/technology & configuration to overshadow the whole point of a group coming together.

As Jono's story illustrates, more important than the tools is focusing on connecting people, community development, and good group process for the community to maintain momentum, activity and value.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Dynamic Knowledge Transfer Capacity

(Via Paul McDowall of the Canadian Federal Government's Interdepartmental Knowledge Management Forum)

Dynamic Knowledge Transfer Capacity: A Systems Thinking Framework for Effective Knowledge Transfer, was published last year (Journal of Knowledge Management. 11(6),81-96) based on research by Robert Parent, Mario Roy andDenis St-Jacques, through the University of Sherbrooke in Canada.)

"The article proposes a new knowledge transfer paradigm that views knowledge as a systemic, socially constructed, context-specific representation of reality. The proposed knowledge transfer model is in sharp contrast to past attempts, focusing attention on the capacities that must be present in organizations and social systems as a precondition for knowledge transfer to occur."

I find the model interesting for a couple of reasons. First it extends the traditional model of knowledge transfer that focus on "generate" and "disseminate" to also include the capacity to absorb. Knowledge transfer should focus first and foremost on the learner, or, to use one of Nancy Dixon's terms, the "neglected receiver."

And second, one of the key hurdles faced in implementing knowledge strategy, plans, methods, tools, techniques etc. is change "readiness" - on the part of the organization, work group, or individual. Unless there is readiness to change (acknowledgement of the need being one dimension), the ability to change (knowledge and skill), and the peer, environmental and organizational support for change, it's a loooongggg harrrdddd rooooaaadddd!

All in all, a good, thought provoking paper.