Admit it, we’re all free agents!

December 14th, 2007 14 Comments

A RodGoogle recently launched Knol. It is essentially a Wikipedia where authors can build up a personal brand. In addition, they can even monetize pages they author via, surprise surprise, Google Ads. Personally, I think the concept is brilliant. It plays on everyone’s need to feel special and that can’t hurt participation.

As I dove deeper into this new concept, I saw the folks at ZDnet had a piece contemplating if this new web app could be more of a knowledge management play. As we all know, KM has been plagued over the years and never made much of an inroad – not for lack of trying. I have always loved KM, and too wondered, why the failure? Here is what Larry Dignan thinks:

“The biggest reason: Employees like to hoard knowledge and don’t want to share much because they become less valuable.”

This got me thinking. Maybe it is time to just accept the reality that we are all free agents. Apart from sales, one someone is hired, they tend to go to work without the pressure of day to day performance. The irony is that, the pressure to perform is certainly there, but outside of sales, performance is shrouded in mystery. Why are some people promoted? Who is really a team player? Who is doing the best work? The inner workings of companies are tough to make clear under the current model of operation.

The obvious challenge is measurement. I agree with Larry that a system like Google is proposing could change this dynamic. If we solved the measurement problem, a kind of market economy for free agency could be achieved (at least inside an organization and ideally across organizations).

What would it look like if we all acknowledged the inherent free agency in the employee/employer relationship? I would argue that if we made this leap, both employees and employers would be better off. How?

Let’s take employees. In a world where your personal contributions, skills, expertise, and attitude were on display, I imagine it might “light a fire”. People would work harder, care more, and generally do more to promote the common good. The fact is, transparency changes behavior (ever not wash your hands leaving an empty bathroom?). Sometimes this change is for the worse, but on balance, I like the model for how it drives people to improve themselves and that can only help them in their current job, future job, and life in general.

Employers on the other hand would now have at their disposal a wealth of performance data. How can this help the organization? Well, there are a ton of ways, but let’s just take the simple idea of differentiation. I think most would agree that higher performers should be paid more, average performers should be mentored to higher level skills, and the weakest players should be moved out to more appropriate roles or organizations. This model has been made infamous by Jack Welch. I should note that the ire Mr. Welch inspires in others is primarily due to his percentages while the concept itself is generally liked as it has a sense of fairness which people tend to immediately appreciate. Doing this well just makes companies stronger and people happier. Period.
So if we found a way to enable people to build their own personal brand through activities we want to incent (like sharing, collaboration, etc), both employees and employers could be substantially better off. Batter up! (fyi steroids still don’t increase typing wpm)

-Paul


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14 Responses to “Admit it, we’re all free agents!”

  1. Blog By Alert Says:

    Coding), the latest-and-greatest video standard, widely used in everywhere where the best possible video quality is required with the least possible … Smartphone & Pocket PC Magazine Blog – http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3Comment on Admit it, we’re all free agents! by Free Agency, Teams …By Free Agency, Teams and Knowledge Sharing… from Oracle AppsLab has a post on whether viewing all employees as free agents would contribute to better knowledge management within an organ… So if we found a way to enable people to build their

  2. Rich Manalang - FriendFeed Says:

    Admit it, we’re all free agents!

  3. TalentedApps Says:

    turn their ideas and knowledge into value before someone else does. This kind of culture breeds fear; fear of failure because that means less likelihood of obtaining future resources. A growth mindset organization recognizes that through everyone’scontribution, not hoarding, of knowledge and ideas does the maximum value get created. This doesn’t mean all ideas are equal in value and it doesn’t mean all ideas get the resources to move forward. Instead, the incentives are such that all contribution is recognized and

  4. Meg Says:

    Thanks Paul for coving a lot of topics near and dear to my heart. I’m sure I’ll be tracking back to this post a bit, as I you really are covering a lot of ground here that I’d like to explore.

    I also have wished for more success in KM over the years. I personally don’t believe it fails due to individuals wanting to horde knowledge. I think that often it fails because it is pushed top down and has never found a way to not put a huge burden on your most strapped resources. I think a more 2.0 approach is exactly what is needed to breathe new fire into the point of KM — more alignment between self promotion, corporate goals and knowledge capture and sharing is all good in my book.

  5. Meg Says:

    Thanks Paul for coving a lot of topics near and dear to my heart. I’m sure I’ll be tracking back to this post a bit, as I you really are covering a lot of ground here that I’d like to explore.

    I also have wished for more success in KM over the years. I personally don’t believe it fails due to individuals wanting to horde knowledge. I think that often it fails because it is pushed top down and has never found a way to not put a huge burden on your most strapped resources. I think a more 2.0 approach is exactly what is needed to breathe new fire into the point of KM — more alignment between self promotion, corporate goals and knowledge capture and sharing is all good in my book.

  6. Paul Pedrazzi Says:

    Meg, I hear ya. I too think “hording” is too one dimensional. My sense is that the tools have been overhead instead of a natural part of the workstream, but I am sure there are countless other reasons.

    Looking forward to your other thoughts…

  7. Paul Pedrazzi Says:

    Meg, I hear ya. I too think “hording” is too one dimensional. My sense is that the tools have been overhead instead of a natural part of the workstream, but I am sure there are countless other reasons.

    Looking forward to your other thoughts…

  8. Mark Says:

    In “The Knowing-Doing Gap” authors Pfeffer and Sutton make a good argument that the problem with KM was that it assumed that value was found when knowledge was viewed as something primarily explicit or tangible (e.g. facts, techniques and practices) and therefore something that can be captured, measured, transferred, etc. which is what management systems are good at doing. This kind of knowledge tends to be most useful for doing something routine.

    However, a lot (and some might say the most important kind) of knowledge is tacit/intangible. That is, knowledge that is hard to describe or codify, but still essential for doing something and doing it well, particularly anything novel. It’s the “underlying philosophy that guides what [organizations] do and why they do it.” That is by its very nature hard to capture and codify, but humans can be very good at learning it from experience and sharing it.

    KM also tended to be run by folks who weren’t involved in the generation of the knowledge, so knowledge went in and rarely came back out. More value is gained in knowledge sharing and use, which is about turning knowledge into action (i.e. “doing”) and this is best done by the knowledge generators themselves telling what they know and often through stories vs. manuals.

    Hmmm. Routine vs. Novel – sounds like ERP vs. BRP. Managed by “keepers” vs. shared by “doers” – sounds like what blogs, wikis, and social networks can help us do.

  9. Mark Says:

    In “The Knowing-Doing Gap” authors Pfeffer and Sutton make a good argument that the problem with KM was that it assumed that value was found when knowledge was viewed as something primarily explicit or tangible (e.g. facts, techniques and practices) and therefore something that can be captured, measured, transferred, etc. which is what management systems are good at doing. This kind of knowledge tends to be most useful for doing something routine.

    However, a lot (and some might say the most important kind) of knowledge is tacit/intangible. That is, knowledge that is hard to describe or codify, but still essential for doing something and doing it well, particularly anything novel. It’s the “underlying philosophy that guides what [organizations] do and why they do it.” That is by its very nature hard to capture and codify, but humans can be very good at learning it from experience and sharing it.

    KM also tended to be run by folks who weren’t involved in the generation of the knowledge, so knowledge went in and rarely came back out. More value is gained in knowledge sharing and use, which is about turning knowledge into action (i.e. “doing”) and this is best done by the knowledge generators themselves telling what they know and often through stories vs. manuals.

    Hmmm. Routine vs. Novel – sounds like ERP vs. BRP. Managed by “keepers” vs. shared by “doers” – sounds like what blogs, wikis, and social networks can help us do.

  10. Anne Truitt Zelenka » links for 2007-12-15 Says:

    […] Oracle AppsLab » Admit it, we’re all free agents! Want to dig a bit more into why KM efforts have been such failures. Here’s some stuff to chew on. (tags: knowledge-management km knowledge free-agents) This entry was written by Anne Z and posted on December 15, 2007 at 9:23 am and filed under Delicious Links. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « links for 2007-12-14 […]

  11. Free Agency, Teams and Knowledge Sharing | Ken H. Judy Says:

    […] from Oracle AppsLab has a post on whether viewing all employees as free agents would contribute to better knowledge management within an organ… So if we found a way to enable people to build their own personal brand through activities we want […]

  12. Don’t Forget, They’re Free Agents! « TalentedApps Says:

    […] a recent post, Paul cited the Knol announcement, thought about how it might be a knowledge management play, got […]

  13. The Mismeasure of Talent « TalentedApps Says:

    […] easily measured, often doesn’t get measured, and thus makes it so they can’t assess their contributions or […]

  14. Sharing Ideas = Value « TalentedApps Says:

    […] of obtaining future resources. A growth mindset organization recognizes that through everyone’s contribution, not hoarding, of knowledge and ideas does the maximum value get created. This doesn’t mean all ideas are equal […]

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