Think on a paper

April 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Think on a paper – that’s an advice I give to everyone. Write down everything, your thinking process, scraps, lists of anything, everything that could be written down. Some of you already know that. However, I’ve been recently surprised how many people don’t do it.

Why bother?

  • Writing clarifies thoughts. Whether you take notes, draw a map, a scheme, you make a map of what you think about. And it allows you to focus, analyze, see a bigger picture. Finally, helps to solve a problem, faster and better. Having all on paper helps you see if didn’t omit anything and focus on solution. Works perfectly with brainstorming, when you flush everything from you brain, then sort out what’s important. I guess you already know the trick of breaking down big tasks or problems into smaller, separated pieces. Do it on a paper. It works well as it was designed exclusively for it.
  • Helps you to focus. Focusing on solutions comes easier, when you have a problem on a piece of paper rather than on your mind.
  • Makes you less stressed about what you think of. Putting on a paper complex ideas often reveals their simplicity. As result, you feel less overwhelmed, more focused and relaxed. It works the same with “to-do” lists. There’s even more. Keeping a diary during hard times (and all times) gives you context on what is happenning and where you are. Eventually, it may appear to be powerfull in helping you move things forward.
  • Writing down sets your mind free. Imagine you’re making up an idea or solving problem. When you put it on a paper, it’s taken off your mind and memory, and let focus on the next steps.
  • Taking notes helps you to remember. It’s for two reasons. First, when you write down, you focus on what’s next, not on trying to remember. Your mind is free, less tensed. Second, it appears that there’s a deep link between your subconscious, memory and your pen. If you write down something to remember, there’s a good chance that you will not get back to these notes. Personally I think it’s partially connected with handling stress. Writing down takes something off your mind, you feel less tense. And obviously, you get to remember more, when you’re relaxed.
  • Your notebook will help you to sleep well. One more time, something connected with stress and setting your mind free. Here’s an excerpt from Tony Schwartz’s blog post about sleep:

“Write down what’s on your mind — especially unfinished to-do’s and unresolved issues — just before you go to bed. If you leave items in your working memory, they’ll make it harder to fall asleep, and you’ll end up ruminating about them if you should wake up during the night.” (read the full post: http://blogs.hbr.org/schwartz/2011/03/sleep-is-more-important-than-f.html)

It’s a good, common-sensed idea to practice all of the above, however, as Stephen Covey says, common sense is not commonly practiced. My advice – make writing down your habit. It will take some time, but once you seriously apply it, you will notice the very advantages of it. Write down everything – ideas, sketches, thoughts, designs, titles of songs that you heard on a radio and want to buy a CD, a great book that somebody recomended and you don’t want to forget a title, information about articles that may prove useful in the future, your task lists.

Personally, I use one small hardcover notebook that I carry with me almost all the time. I write everything in it, from tasks to sketches of some website features. I use Microsoft OneNote, a powerfull digital notebook, and keep it online (yes, there’s an online app, make yourself account on live.com if you want to use it). I keep a file online, and access it from home and work, and have my notebook always up-to-date (I will write more about it in another post). Google Docs also does its job. And have my cell phone or iPod Touch also ready, when I don’t have anything else. It’s a matter of if you do it, not how you do it. I made thinking on a paper a habit. All my personal and professional projects start on a piece of paper (or in OneNote, still it’s a notebook for me). All my ideas are in the notebooks. Shopping lists (some contain items to buy in a very future) are also there. And funny movie quotes. And some Garfield’s strips too.

The whole idea is not new, and definitely recommended by successful people and organizations: Stephen Covey mentions to write your personall mission on a paper. Brian Tracy advices always to make a lists and take notes. McKinsey, a top consulting company, recommends using some techniques for solving or visualizing problems – starting on a piece of paper. And there’s more. Highly successful people do it, so should you.

Start now. Make writing things down your habit. Like with every method – you won’t see a dramatic and fast change. But in time, you will notice a big difference.

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Choosing the knowledge sharing system

March 1, 2011 Leave a comment

In organizations, knowledge sharing helps to get things done. Effective system that supports it may really spead up the workflow, yet it has to be chosen wisely. Massive knowledge management systems may just ruin your budget if your company is not that big and complex. Having simple basic solutions may just be a bottleneck to you projects.

How to determine what the organization really needs? Let me suggest approach based on what you have, and how big you are. Too obvious?

The idea behind lies in data diversification and complexity of the company’s IT system.

Simple IT systems are small scale and their tasks are limited to operations that have tactical meaning. They are common in small organizations and number of its users don’t exceed the one of organization’s employees. Systems of developed complexity have extended range (usually to region or country, but not necessarily), advanced network combined of local networks cooperating through Internet and extended number of multiple users. That kind of system works to achieve both strategic and operational goals, mostly used in medium sized organizations and with large geographical scope. Complex systems are commonly seen in large scale organizations, usually operate globally. They use a wide range of specialized software with a large number of multiple type users. This whole system is a main participator in achieving strategic, long-term goals.

The second criteria is the amount and diversity of data that is being generated or processed inside the IT environment. Low level data diversification occur in small and medium organizations, where data is used for operational purposes and it generates small amount of data. Common data diversity level exists in medium-sized and large organizations that may generate large amounts of data but not diversified in type. High level of data diversity is present when systems generate and process large amounts of multiple types of data. This appears in systems that operate in medium-sized and large organizations, operating in a large geographical scale.

However, exchanging knowledge doesn’t happen when a company doesn’t foster it. Having this condition matched, you may apply the following matrix to help you choose what fits best to your organization.

Table - Choosing the knowledge sharing system

In some of the cases, putting knowledge management system along with support knowledge sharing into the cloud services would make a lot of sense. The whole system upgrading and maintanance would be easier to upgrade as a company grows. However, this is applicable especially in small and mid-sized organizations. I am not really sure if this would work with large scale corporations, at least for now. Doesn’t mean it could be not in the future.

How to apply this methodology? The decision maker first has to determine the diversity of the data used, whether the company uses pure text documents only or full range of multimedia types of all types. The next step is to determine how complex is the IT infrastructure in the organization. There are five people companys that hold 5 workstations and there are multinational corporations competing in few branches. There are no strict ranges where these criterions fit, but expert judgement would be a fine way to figure them out. For instance, a five people attorney partnership company would withhold 10 workstations and use 95% text documents – that is a simple It system with low level of data divesity and requires simple solutions. Although a 100000+ employees multinational corporation with different competition markets departments raging from R&D to product oriented may require fully capable commercial solutions.

The article presenting the idea was originally published in 2008 by the Publishing House of Wroclaw University of Ecomics and then presented at the AITM 2008 conference (Advanced Information Technologies is Management). You may download the original article here. Although it was some time ago, I believe this method is still up to date.

Download full article (260kb, pdf)

The first part of it is wide intruduction to knowledge management and some IT aspects. If you are not familiar with them, I recommend reading the full article. If you are an IT professional, knowledge management specialist or those aspects are well known to you, you may skip the intruductory part and begin reading from page 9 – Information technologies supporting knowledge sharing.

I would welcome any opinions and comments about this method.