Archive for Knowledge management

Web 2.0 and a very public Hong Kong/Macau Family Feud

Hong Kong and Macau have had front row seats at a very public family feud over Stanley Ho’s fortune. The 89-year-old tycoon’s 3 living wives and 16 living children are positioning themselves for their share of between 2 and 3 billion USD, mostly in gambling and property assets. Rich people’s fighting in Hong Kong and Macau is very common and normally confined to private meetings and courtrooms followed by press conferences and newspaper articles. However, this feud has moved onto Youtube when one of Stanley’s lawyers posted 3 videos. This seems similar to the Wikileaks approach/philosophy of not having any secrets. I have no idea if it will help one-side of this family feud or the other-side.

Posting these videos on Youtube goes against the view ‘the Chinese’ like to be closed and secretive. Local culture in Hong Kong and Macau is a blending of Chinese, British, Portuguese, Japanese and American influences. Openness and transparency are not the norm but is that something truly Chinese? Maybe so, maybe not. I’m more than a bit suspicious of ascribing things to being ‘Chinese’. This is a good example of the 2 extremes for how to communicate; one open using Web 2.0 and putting it out there for everyone to see and one closed with controlling and censoring communication channels.

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Grant money for KM consultancy in Hong Kong

“The Professional Services Development Assistance Scheme (PSDAS) is established by a Government allocation of HK$100 million to provide financial support for projects which aim at increasing the competitiveness of Hong Kong’s professional service sector as a whole, or of individual sectors, in external markets including the Mainland market. In addition, projects aim at enhancing the standard of professional services in Hong Kong are also eligible.” They accept applications from management consultancy groups and individuals. The deadline is 31 March 2011.

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Debate is good but ….

I’m still rather surprised how basic concepts such as the explicit / tacit split or the role of ‘culture’ are continuously debated by the global blogging KM community. Explicit knowledge in documents is important but clearly not everything that is in documents is important. There needs to be assignment of value to the documents. The most effective way (actually it seems to me to be the only way) of doing this is by classification and assigning retention periods. Call it taxonomy building if you like. Tacit knowledge can only be found, used or shared by connecting people. The importance of facilitating connection cannot be under-estimated. However, KM can’t just be about connections because memory over time and space requires more than just making transient connections between people. What do people mean by organizational culture? It has never made sense to me and I notice people use the ‘culture’ word without ever defining what they mean when they glibly say ‘culture is important’ or ‘consider culture carefully’. Do they think culture is something that can be broken if mis-handled like fine china?

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2011 – Ruminations on this blog

I”m interested in Knowledge Management as someway of organizing my thoughts around how work gets done, how people cooperate and conflict, how information get’s organized and how technology get’s used for these purposes. I did a MSc in KM from HK Polytechnic in 2008/2009. This was quite useful for someone like me who had worked for 30 years on the fringes of KM. This is the beginning of the 3rd year for this blog. It’s useful for me to make some connections between all the above. The process of searching for events for the events page makes me keep up to date and sometimes I even attend these events. In 2011 I’m going to restrict the events to those in Hong Kong, Macau or Guangdong province (I’m going to call this greater Guangdong) unless there is a strong connection to these local KM communities.

Our KM community is very fragmented. There are formal academic KM programs at a few of the universities, take a look at the ones I know about here. There are many KM related groups, societies, organizations and forums in greater Guangdong, see here. This diversity is good. I’m trying to offer a place here that pulls the information about these groups and their activities together. Knowledge Management in greater Guangdong would be better if we knew what was going on besides receiving lots of emails from many people. There are many events, a few organizational websites but no central website to find a cross-section of all of them. I’m trying to give us such a place. Keep me posted on any KM type of events in 2011 and I’ll post them here.

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Re-ignite reaction

I went to the Re-ignite conference this past weekend in Hong Kong. This is part of the Hong Kong’s 2nd Asia Consciousness Festival. Gino Yu from HKPolyU’s Design school has been the driving force behind the festival. The theme was ‘rediscover your life’ or ‘rediscover what is possible – personal and organizational transformation’. I arrived on Saturday afternoon around 2 and stayed until end of the day on Sunday. Upon arrival there was a yoga class with Lawrence Milman, who has developed ‘freedom yoga’. More like yoga with a smile and we still did the Om. This was followed by a workshop run by Gino about non-verbal communication; we looked into our partner’s eyes for five minutes. Different types memory recall and memory construction (telling un-truths) can be mapped to eye-movement. At the end of Saturday there was a session of staged talking heads on social entrepreneurship. These were good and thank-fully they only had 18 minutes so there was none of the fatal ‘conference lecture syndrome’. Joy Tang from Taiwan is working on bringing sustainable development to Ghana with the One Village Foundation. This is real knowledge transfer in action between Ghana and Taiwan. Todd Darling from Hong Kong talked about founding and running a organic food distribution company, Home Grown Foods, and involved in a successful sustainable restaurant in HK’s Soho, Posto Pubblico. The rise of sustainability and environmentalism is quite amazing over the past 10 years here in south-east China. John Fitzpatrick talked about starting a furniture design business based on modular bamboo shelving. Todd and John’s stories made me reflect that so many local Chinese HK people have stopped trying to start anything new. I hear so often that it’s impossible to start a business in Hong Kong. I wonder why this has happened? Scot Frank talked about solar cookers for rural communities in the Himalayans. I would have liked to heard more about the the distribution system.

Sunday morning was more talking heads but interesting ones. Jeffrey Martin explained how you need to match your emotional development to the sort of therapy you were going to try. This is quite sensible and helps to explain why one technique works well for some people but fails and even harms others. Stefania Lucchetti talked about time management. Can we ever get beyond email? Stefania has a useful perspective as a working attorney and a new mother.

There was a long coffee break for useful chatting and strawberry cream puffs. Joachim de Posada “the marshmallow man” talked about delaying gratification as a good indicator for future success. Ivy Ning came up and described herself as “in the climate change business”, hmm, I guess it is a business these days. She talked about Spiral Dynamics of Clare Graves ~ a bit towards the L. Ron Hubbard end of the spectrum. A beautiful coloured spiral showing personal evolution. Ivy is about to have a baby so had that wonderful mother-to-be glow.

Three experiential sessions (I had to look this word up) ~ it means learning thru physical activity. The yoga and interactions sessions the day before had also been experiential sessions. I’m learning here. The first was run by Judith Hovetter on Feldenkrais Method stretching. I’ve done some stretching classes before so I now good it can make me feel. Judith made us very slowly make one very long whole body twist and at the end of 30 minutes we all felt completely relaxed. Steven Ng explained and made us do some qi-gong and tai-chi exercises that were effective. If you live in Hong Kong and want to know more about chi and how to hold it then I recommend contacting Steven.

The end of the day were sessions by Rafael Bellavita, Gen Kelsang Tonglam and Gary Hart. I couldn’t really follow what Rafael was talking about ~ the link between investing and spiritual transformation. Where was the link? He made better investment decisions because he meditated. Gen Kelsang Tonglam was inspiring. Undoubtedly being a rock-star handsome Buddhist monk has its advantages (and possibly a few disadvantages). He explained about being ‘of the world’ with the World Peace Cafe in Wan Chai was better than being cloistered. Gary Hart is a scientist who has attained that level of nothingness, living with no thoughts talking constantly to him all the time, which is the goal of so many meditation techniques.

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Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us

It still resonates ….

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Language Police – Why are you speaking Cantonese?

I’ve been in Macau now for almost 5 months. Just after I arrived I did a 2-week series of guest blogs at Cognitive Edge. Since then, I’ve been very quiet here except for updating the Events page and doing some twitting.

Some of those CE postings were about groups and how they define themselves. Being in Macau makes me think what is a group in this part of south-east China. How are Macau’s groups different from Hong Kong’s groups or are they different at all? There is something going on here in Macau that intrigues me and I’ve been noticing some rather odd ‘language encounters’ since I’ve been in Macau. In Macau people frequently speak Putonghua to me first in shops, taxies, buses, etc. If I answer in Cantonese (trust me when I say it is bad Cantonese) they switch to Cantonese and only seldom to English. In Hong Kong very seldom does someone speak Putonghua to me and when I speak or answer in Cantonese they frequently but not always respond in English. Some of this can be explained as skill-level with English in Hong Kong being higher than Macau. However the assumption of ‘this westerner may speak Putonghua’ in Macau is definitely a different assumption from Hong Kong.

Should we all speak the same language so we can share knowledge and information more easily? This has been the express aim of standardizing language in China for a few hundred years. It really got going in the 19th century with the ‘white language movement’ and since 1949 its been an aim of the central government to get the population to use Putonghua in conjunction with simplified Chinese characters and Romanized Pinyin Chinese. Changing the characters was and remains a master stroke in information control. Mainland Chinese cannot easily read newspapers and books published in the traditional characters used in Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The central government has been largely successful and even in Guangzhou, the home of Cantonese, the vast majority of people speak Putonghua very well. The case in Hong Kong and Macau is very different. Putonghua in Hong Kong and Macau is gaining ground slowly since the handover to China in 1997 and 1999. Putonghua is encouraged in Hong Kong and Macau but it is not a required language. It is very odd that the national language of China is not a requirement in the schools of Macau and Hong Kong.

Over the past several weeks there has been a groundswell of protests first in Guangzhou and then Hong Kong about the suppression of Cantonese in Guangdong province. These protests started when the local authorities proposed stopping Cantonese television broadcasts on the both of the local television stations. The justification was the Asian Games to be held in the autumn required more exposure to Putonghua, the national language of China, among the general population. Somehow, in a few months time with no local Cantonese television, the local population’s fluency would race upwards and everyone would sound just like they were from Beijing. Also, during the games visitors wouldn’t want to / need to watch Cantonese television. That there are several Putonghua television stations broadcasting 24/7 in Guangzhou was ignored by the local authorities. The reaction to this plan was swift and loud and in Cantonese. Protests were held in Guangzhou and these were quickly suppressed by the local authorities. The protestors moved to Hong Kong. The SCMP has been awash in a very old and acrimonious argument over the merits of Cantonese and Putonghua. Here is a nice summary of the history from a Victor Mair on the Language Log site. Lucy Kuo, of the LA Times has a similar view here. Chang Ping, a writer from mainland China, wrote this insightful editorial in the SCMP, here.

The Cantonese issue has not been reported in the Macau Daily Times, one of the English language papers here in Macau. From asking a few local Macanese they have told me it isn’t seen as much of an issue in Macau, ‘we really should speak Putonghua but we need to speak to our parents’ is the sort of response I heard. It does seem that Macau people are less wrapped up in being so identified with the Cantonese language.

I was in Hong Kong last week and when I asked a few long time Hong Kong friends about this controversy they were adamant that they were not going to begin speaking Putonghua anytime soon. Things like, ‘over my dead body this is going to happen’ is the sort of response I heard.

On the mainland there is an expression that can be paraphrased as, ‘nothing is more painful than having to listen to a Hong Kong person speak Putonghua’, it is meant in jest but it is true that listening to a Hong Kong Cantonese speak very high pitched Putonghua is rather painful.

Sharing knowledge normally does require sharing a common language. There are ways around this but they require technology and/or expensive human translators. Hong Kong likes to call itself ‘Asia’s World City’, but as Mark Pixley from Leadership, Inc. of Shenzhen likes to say it would be more accurate to call Hong Kong ‘China’s last Cantonese speaking city’. I wonder how long Hong Kong can stay this way?

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Quote taken from David Gurteen

I like this and have taken this quote from here

If we could shrink the earth’s population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following:

57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 from the Western Hemisphere, both north and south
8 Africans

52 would be female
48 would be male

70 would be non-white
30 would be white

70 would be non Christian
30 would be Christian

89 would be heterosexual
11 would be homosexual

6 people would possess 59% of the entire world’s wealth and all 6 would be from the United States

80 would live in substandard housing

70 would be unable to read

50 would suffer from malnutrition

1 would be near death – 1 would be near birth

1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education

1 would own a computer

When one considers our world from such a compressed perspective, the need for both acceptance, understanding and education becomes glaringly apparent.


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HKKMS Statement of Accounts

The Hong Kong Knowledge Management Society (HKKMS) has released its statement of accounts for the period 2008 March to 2009 December. This statement was supposed to be part of the last Annual General Meeting (AGM) in December 2009. I’ve checked the accounts, prepared some questions and added some explanation of the statement here. If you are a member of the HKKMS then think about asking for the answers to these questions.

I was part of a a group of people who asked for a Special General Meeting (SGM) in March. We thought that there needed to be an open and transparent meeting where all members of the society were invited and allowed to discuss what could be done to improve the society. We requested the SGM but the HKKMS board refused to allow the meeting to take place. I’m still puzzled why these questions were so difficult to discuss in an open forum.

The points we wanted to discuss taken from our letter to the society:

1. The annual report from 2009 did not include the balance sheet and the accounts. These are required by the Society’s HK KMS Statutes | Nov 2009 (see Article 4 (b)). The balance sheet and accounts need to clearly describe all income and expenditures of the society.

2. There is a general lack of transparency in the operation of the society. Interaction between members is one of the main purposes of the Society according to its HK KMS Statutes | Nov 2009 (see Article 2). For example, the names of the individual and corporate members are missing from the 2009 annual report. The terms of office for the president and other board members are not generally known by the members and are missing from the 2009 annual report. Society meetings are scheduled without sufficient time for members to make plans to attend. Knowledge management activities in Hong Kong and the surrounding area are insufficiently communicated to the Society membership.

3. The HKKMS website requires substantial revision. It had been agreed at the 2007 AGM that this was a priority. Since that time, members have offered to help with the website revision. However, the membership can see few visible results to develop an up-to-date and interactive member driven website.

4. The HKKMS website domain is now owned by Waltraut Ritter, the founder of the Society. An effective and fair transfer of the domain to the society needs to be discussed.

Related posts about the HKKMS are here and there is a list of HKKMS events here from March 2009 to March 2010.

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Google’s Eavesdropping

ThinkingShift’s post on Google’s eavesdropping ~ Accidental Spies ~ has made me wonder why people accept Google’s excuse that this was ‘accidental’. I prefer to call this eavesdropping because that describes what happened more accurately than hacking or spying. Where is the ‘accident‘? Careless may be a better word. It points up some of the problems with project management at Google and possibly elsewhere.

Google’s Street View program was a big effort involving many highly skilled information engineers who would have followed the tried and true plan, develop, prototype and then move to production. There would have been many layers of testing and confirmation throughout this process. Still, if we actually believe Google’s management, a process was put into place to scan, capture and store wirelessly transmitted data in Street View cars and then upload it to Google servers. No-one on the Street View project ever asked ‘why are we doing this?’

Project management is supposed to help us achieve the goal by staying focused, meeting deadlines, assigning people, their time and resources they need to get the job done. At Google do they manage their projects in some other unique way? Google doesn’t care about staying focused on the goal? Information engineers are doing what they like and see as interesting and no-one takes the time to see if it is worthwhile to be part of the project’s goal? I find this a bit hard to believe. However, I’ve worked on some big technical information projects where it was surprising to find a large amounts of time and effort being devoted to sideline activities.

Google has the reputation of running a free-flowing open-space manage-yourself work environment. I’m sure it is true to some extent. I’ve also read that the Google work atmosphere is not that different from other places but there are more toys and better food. Work environment is important and does set the tone and pattern of a whole lot of what gets done in the workplace. Google’s work environment may need some adjustments to keep its workers focused on its motto of ‘ Don’t be evil‘.

By the way, I’m a big user of Google’s products and services.

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