Blogging was where we began, and how we built our company so we have preserved this archive to show how our thinking developed over a decade of developing the use of social technology inside organisations

KM Europe 2003: Verna Allee


After Dave Snowden’s irreverent but thought-provoking keynote at KM Europe, Verna Allee’s presentation seemed to be more in the mould of conventional management consulting even if her message is also quite progressive. She began her presentation with a quote from Alan Weber of Fast Company that followed on from Dave Snowden’s ideas

“The first job [of leadership] is not to make decisions but to make sense”

She sees the rise of virtual workers, virtual teams and virtual companies as bringing to the fore new issues such as complexity, shared value (new business models), focus (limited attention), always-on technology and work/life balance. She believes knowledge management is part of the vanguard of a new business culture that addresses social and human issues as well as the bottom line. KM began with technological innovation that aimed to codify and share explicit knowledge using enterprise networks, intranets, search systems, e-learning and e-business tools. The next stage is a level of social innovation that creates shared knowledge through expert communities, communities of practice, knowledge mapping and story telling. Looking ahead, she sees a new level of value-based innovation around business analytics that will help us move away from mechanistic models to dynamic “whole system” business strategies through techniques such as valuing intangibles, value network analysis, complexity and systems thinking
Allee believes that knowledge is a social construct, but we know little about collaborative inteligence and creation of shared meaning: “what are the conditions for wisdom and innovation to occur?” In practical terms, this means trying to support communities of practice in which people share knowledge through informal conversations and mutual engagement, but not by giving them explicit tasks, which would turn them into project teams
In terms of business culture, Allee thinks that greater transparency is inevitable, and this will create greater demand for a more holistic approach to value creation, with businesses paying attention to social, environmental and business values as well as their intangible assets such as competencies, brand identity and internal structure, recommending Tapscott and Ticoll’s book “The Naked Corporation” as a possible model for the future. She also echoes Peter Drucker’s view that the corporation may not survive beyond the next 25 years as organisational models evolve towards resembling living sytems
In conclusion, she believes that networks cannot be directed by hierarchy – only supported – and that within networked structures, value creation is all about relationships and the intangible assets they create. In the future, she sees networks of people self-organising through negotiated self-interest and the creation of shared meaning, which means that trust will become an ever more important factor for business
See also the Verna Allee toolkit for practical tips on putting these ideas into practice.

3 Responses to KM Europe 2003: Verna Allee

  1. By Mathemagenic on November 18, 2003 at 2:23 pm

    KM Europe: other weblogs

    This is the growing list of other weblogs posts on “KM Europe” (see also conference presentations online ).

  2. By chris macrae on November 22, 2003 at 6:23 pm

    Allee is the greatest. At least to someone like me who maps the value multipliers of intangibles as whole systems of relationship connecting transparently what stakeholders demand with the 5 main productivity sources. Beyond the organisation, these are individuals and society, and the two emerging networked forms of networks of individuals and networks of organisations.
    Among KM people that I have read, Allee is the only one not to fudge the maths of intangibles by trying to put them back in numbers that a global accountant would like to crunch. In leadership reality, when most of a company’s value goes intangible, its governance systems need to be as inclusive of opposite way round controls as the first pilots who tried to break the barrier of the speed of sound. Good mathematicians advise that whole system modelling of what value relationships will spin in 2 to 3 years time requires wholly different circulation of knowledge across an organisation than numbers adding up the last quarter’s transactions. Moreover dynamic valuation of intangibles starts with auditing what relationship conflicts are emerging that weren’t there last time round and resolving them before value breakdowns and distrust are compounded across the system.
    Any organsiation that doesnt get this in the next 5 years must crash , otherwise the system of system spins networked between such ignorant organisations will compound destruction of the net and of societies in magnitudes that scare this mathematician.

  3. By Headshift on May 8, 2006 at 12:37 pm

    KM Europe 2003

    KM Europe 2003 took place last week – here are some notes, reflections and links to presentations