This website covers knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Business Exposed

I originally heard about Freek Vermeulen's Business Exposed: The naked truth about what really goes on in the world of business from the HBR Ideacast with him - go there for a nice summary of the book and his take on the world. 

Vermeulen casts his skeptical eye across many familiar practices to debunk our beliefs in the value of those practices. I particularly like that he largely uses published research from a wide variety of business school researchers to show these things.  It also helps that the tone of the writing makes me think Vermeulen was smiling as he wrote, which makes it enjoyable to read as well.  

Vermeulen takes an extreme angle at times, just to get the reader to tilt their head with a quizzical look on their face. He even touches on some topics relevant to my work, including knowledge management.

On knowledge management, he repeats some of what he wrote in a 2009 blog at HBR, When KM Hurts. My take is the same thing many people in KM have been saying for years, gathering "knowledge" (mostly documents) for the sake of having a massive database doesn't particularly help anyone. It is the context, the situation, the experiential knowledge that are so important to the ability of a knowledge management effort to add value to an organization.  His recommendation in this makes perfect sense: stop spending so much time and energy on collecting stuff. Rather, setup "systems that help people identify and contact experts in your firm, because that can sometimes be helpful."  In the research he cited, KM-like systems were most helpful for people new to the firm.  He also cited research that suggested experienced people who hop from one company to another are at a significant disadvantage in terms of performance until they develop their networks within the new company.

Me-too-ism is not a term that Vermeulen uses in the book, but it seems to be connected to a number of ideas he exposes as not quite right. Many companies adopt the latest management fads just because other companies are doing it because they don't want to appear to be behind the times - even if the approach isn't appropriate for their circumstances. For more fun, Vermeulen points to research that shows companies who adopt the latest trends do well on the "Most Admired Companies" lists - regardless of the actual performance impact of the trends.  Or other research that showed merely announcing you were going to do something with corporate social responsibility had a positive impact on analyst coverage and the stock price.

A similar idea that struck me is that companies tend to pay close attention to what industry analysts say about them, largely because there is a strong correlation between analyst coverage and stock price - if an analyst covers your business, your stock price goes up.  This means that if the analysts don't understand your business, they won't cover you or they will give you poor ratings.  This applies even when the business is well-run and doing sensible things for the business. As a result, companies find themselves reorganizing to follow trends that analysts understand.  

KM Challenge: Capturing Institutional Memory and Knowledge

Scope: What problem are you trying to solve