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09-A Networked Vision-From Knowledge Scribes to Knowledge Herders

09-A Networked Vision-From Knowledge Scribes to Knowledge Herders

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Published by Ralph Mercer
article I wrote for the Air force Journal a while back
article I wrote for the Air force Journal a while back

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Published by: Ralph Mercer on Nov 15, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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FALL 2009 • VoL. 2, No. 4
   P   u   S   H   i   n   G
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Demographically, we are an aging orce, presenting us with the added problem o corporateknowledge rust-out. It is essential that we develop a knowledge capture system that preservesa generation o tacit knowledge. In most locations we still have an oral tradition o job handoverand transerring o specialized knowledge to personnel as they take over new positions. Thereis no Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) or knowledge management database made available, sowe continue to relearn the majority o our mistakes. This is a very precarious way o carrying outbusiness in a knowledge environment i you consider that most o our staf workers are pension-able and one deep.One o the most serious secondary efects o this network environment is that the network is looked upon, not as a vehicle or success, but rather as a necessary evil that must be used. Weneed to change that reerence point, and develop a culture that uses the network as a tool orsuccess and shares knowledge pan-Air Force. Most importantly, we need to change rom beingknowledge scribes to knowledge herders. To make this shit in perception, we need to stop ocusing on the technology and start ocus-ing on how we want our personnel to collaborate and share knowledge across the network. Moreimportantly, involve industry experts in the development rom the beginning. We also need toremember that collaboration and knowledge management are not new, we practice them everyday. It is the conversations we have with our coworkers, the social and interpersonal networkswe build, the inormation we search or and the data we collect. Computer networks can eitherenhance or deter collaboration, and we need to build one that excels at making us collectivelysmart. By recording the principles and basic tenets that describe the Air Force network o theuture in a capstone document, we will have taken the rst steps in the codication o the valuesthat will guide the desired community o practice
within the Air Force.
a nEtworkEd vision;
chef w oe rph Mee, cd
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its ownreason or existing.”
 Albert Einstein (1879-1955) The list o challenges acing the Air Force is long; inrastructure, aircrat pro-curement, uture security environments, recruiting and budgetary constraints, just to name a ew. There is a common thread that underpins the search orsolutions to all these serious problems. This common thread is the computernetwork that all Air Force personnel use; it is rom this network that we sourcethe solutions to the problems that afect us. We must question whether thisnetwork that supports all Air Force activities can provide the necessary know-ledge transer, collaboration and exibility necessary to generate the ideas andinnovative solutions needed. Sadly, the answer to that question is no, we arequickly being let behind in network development and concepts. There is a growing digital divide
between the collaborative, innovative anduser riendly networks available to the public and our rigid outdated military net-works. I this capability gap is not addressed we will not be able to use or exploituture advances in computer network applications, technologies or innovations.Air Force personnel work in a network environment that boasts email saturationand no ormal knowledge capture system or useul search engine. In the nameo security we have disabled the majority o our programs and communicationdevices to the point o rendering them useless. The allout rom this one-size-ts-all network is the creation o virtual and cerebral inormation silos.
FALL 2009 • VoL. 2, No. 4
 To achieve this undamental shit in work we need to start with a blank sheet o paper anddiscard our preconceived notions o hierarchical inormation ow. We want to oster collabora-tion, speed up the retrieval o knowledge and simpliy the process o recording inormation whileencouraging conversations and social networking.
It is the ability to collaborate efectively onthe network that will change us rom document producers to knowledge managers. We will gorom small, secluded teams scribing away on a document to a dispersed community o stakehold-ers collaborating and sharing in the progression o ideas. This paradigm shit to social collab-oration will ree people to manage their unctional areas and give them the time to researchconcepts and innovations being created in other militaries and industry world-wide. The development o blocks o inormation by stakeholders and their assembly, like Lego-blocks, into a knowledge management database, opens the door to exciting possibilities or the AirForce. It will allow us to exploit the “all-source” approach and invite industry, academics and othergovernment departments to easily and seamlessly contribute to the development o doctrine andbest practices regardless o physical location. Doctrine and training organizations should haveevergreen documents.
Users and stakeholders are invited to contribute on a continual basis to thedocument development; as the content o each modular block o inormation becomes distinctit is seamlessly integrated into the master document. This modular approach allows all unctionalareas to be symbiotically linked. As one modular piece changes, the updates are agged acrossthe network ensuring that all data remains consistent. Using the collective knowledge o the AirForce community, observations and problems can be converted into lessons learned in a minimalamount o time and disseminated throughout the network instantaneously. The relevance o anylessons learned program is dependent on it being community driven, open sourced and devotedto nding solutions at the lowest possible level without layers o bureaucratic involvement.
  To ensure knowledge management is culturally supported and encouraged (enorced, i necessary), data must be stored in open ormats, remotely accessible and optimized or searchengine optimization (SEO).
The act o retrieving that inormation needs to be exible andcustomizable. Inormation that is only stored and cannot be easily accessed or researched is o no value. Only when it is used to improve operational efectiveness and decision making doesit begin to have value. Picture a resource management clerk ater setting up a Really SimpleSyndication (RSS)
eed, receiving notices whenever there is a change to a DAOD [DeenceAdministrative Orders and Directives] or to human resources policies. This will allow changes inbest practices and inormation to cascade across the network to users who want the inormationin real time. Traditional inormation gate keepers at all levels can no longer stockpile inormation;it needs to be shared and made available to all. It will be the diferent users and organizations atall levels that will take this seemingly unrelated inormation and combine it in new and excitingways to generate innovative ideas and solutions.We don’t all think and work the same way and we don’t all need the same inormation;individuals must be able to shape their desktops to suit individual work habits and work require-ments. This will not only boost productivity, but work satisaction. Personal desktop and emailshould be linked to the person, not the job location, and not suspended when posted or deployed.While the desktop and user prole belongs to the user, the FAQs about a particular job and theknowledge management aspects o that position should be linked to the terms o accountabilityand researchable. The structure o the network must be uid and adaptive to allow the orming o ad hoc collaborative groups on the y. I we have to wait or permission, opportunities are lost. Theability to use the knowledge-capture and collaboration aspects o the network should be as easyas sending an email or logging on to micro-blogging
or a workstation video conerence eed.Enterprise programs are not always the solution. Smaller applications that share and interactseamlessly consume less overhead and are easier to use than many larger one-size-ts-all programs.We should not lock ourselves into using monolithic, expensive proprietary programs; open sourceis both ree and robust, with a large support community that can easily adapt programs to custom
 FALL 2009 • VoL. 2, No. 4
t operational requirements. Maximizing the use o open source products will ree up expensive,recurring licensing ees that can be reinvested in the network to ensure we stay on the cutting edge. To ensure that the capabilities o the network are used and exploited, the network andprograms that make it all happen have to be dirt simple to learn. The network should look andeel very similar to the programs we use on the internet at home; no one can aford extra trainingcosts and user down-time. The user-driven interace
should be designed around the way wewant to work, we should not have to shape our work habits to t a product. The entire network should be web compliant; it must be a living, exible structure that upgrades easily, vice a rigidand proprietary system. Video conerencing and micro-blogging must be available at all work-stations. Collaboration and social networking are to be encouraged. We want people to talk, toshare, to be open with their knowledge and to be a team helping each other. Support or mobiledevices is imperative. Many o our knowledge workers live on the road, and the mobile network should be ast, support multimedia and wireless. Briecases ull o staf papers can be carried ona single e-Book reader, presentation and speaking notes can be reviewed on smart phones andeverything should be updated wirelessly as we travel. The need or security on a military network is acknowledged; it should be exible, scalar and adapted to the role o the organization it serves.We can no longer aford to be restricted by a rigid, one-size-ts-all implementation. To make this all happen we need to establish a culture o digital knowledge management
and instill a desire to reach out or inormation, as well as share it. To do this, the buy-in at thetop must be evident. Leadership at all levels must be the early adopters, demonstrating anenvironment where collaboration is not only encouraged, but expected. The successes and thebenets o collaboration must be made evident. The success o our adoption o new conceptsand computer innovation will be critical to the Air Force’s ability to attract and employ the “digitalnative”
generation. They will be our uture workorce and we need to have in place a network structure that will capitalize on their unique perspective and provide them with the digital work environment that they consider the basic tools o lie. The implementation o this network overhaul needs to start now, and to do this we need topick a test bed or the concept and start designing the process. I can think o no better place to startthan at the Canadian Forces Aerospace Warare Centre (CFAWC). One o its roles is to provide theAir Force with the knowledge to acquire the right capabilities and develop appropriate doctrine tosuccessully conduct aerospace operations as we move into the uture. In the spring o 2010, CFAWCwill move into its new state-o-the-art green building. This move could also be symbolic o the moveto implement a new and truly interactive, collaborative knowledge network or the Air Force.When we ask, “is the energy and resolve required to resuscitate and innovate our network worth the efort?” we should remember that without a uid, interoperable and collaborativenetwork we will never be able to stay inside the decision loop o our adversaries and ahead o our problems. It will be the speed and ability to adapt across the network, to use our collectiveknowledge and generate ideas that will be the Air Force’s greatest non-kinetic tools or success.Ralph Mercer is the Canadian Forces Aero-space Warare Centre Chie Warrant Ocer(CWO). He studies internet culture and howpeople interact with computer networksand is a strong advocate o social media,open source sotware and a member o the Canadian Internet Registry Association.CWO Mercer can be ollowed on twitter @ralphmercer.
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