Friday, January 29, 2021

Opportunities and access are good; too much isn’t!

End of January 2021 as I sit in my man cave imposed stay at home order by local and provincial Gov's. And as you know, and maybe have experienced; with all this time we have now, we tend to think we can justify writing stuff we’d regularly not write. This may be one of those so called justifiable writings that I actually believe are relevant (in my very small brain that is).

Since the original lock-down March 2020 for my region (Ontario, Canada); I’ve used that time to make new friends, dropped disingenuous one’s, joined social media groups and yes dropped many too. And I’ve even adopted new and exciting approaches to KM (Knowledge Management).

Opportunities have abounded; most of them pie in the sky by very well meaning friends and colleagues. Sifting through the opportunities and access I’ve been offered this past 12 months is like reading a list a psychologist may decipher as an indication of panic, overwhelm and a from of ADHD, and yes we can throw mood disorders in there too I guess.

For over 30 years I’ve been a professional (questionable) user of Mind mapping (MM). I won’t elaborate too much re- MM; I’m sure it’s suffice to say you know what it is and probably have come across it.

I’ve classified myself as a Knowledge Architect for some time now; and I’ve been asked to define that; and my elevator paragraph goes something like this:
    “I create, manage and express systematic frameworks for effective knowledge management.”
You may do the very same thing and define yourself as something unique too; defining what I do is way more interesting than defining what I call my self for sure.

I would say everyone wants to be more effective at what they do as they create, manage and express (exchange). I’ve used visual mapping and here comes another definition Method Neutral; it defines Visual Mapping as:
“Multiple modes of information expressed within a flexible workspace” John England founder of Mind systems Australia.

Basically Visual mapping is a tool box that includes numerous tools for expressing our aggregated data; words, images, numbers and time. One size doesn’t fit all and that’s why I like the tool box analogy. And yes; the visual mapping arena, as real as it is; has indeed by the law of development (evolution) become entangled with the Knowledge mapping/management arena.

Opportunities and access to a plethora of personal development, academic enhancement and business productivity tools have presented us with an almost overwhelming choice. This often induces panic and mistaken understandings of what currently works for us versus what the new and shiny may do for us, when we really don’t need them.

We humans though are attracted to the new and shiny aren’t we? I’ve been attracted to a few too over the last year. The first would be Notion and the secondary would be Roam Research, yet what has upset the apple cart has been the rather awesome ClickUp that’s challenging Notion to the nth degree. ClickUp is rather good (even brilliant) yet I beg to differ with the all in one moniker.

Mentioning these three products certainly indicates (two) poles of current usage.

1) The information handler may probably lean towards Notion and ClickUp.
2) the knowledge manager/researcher may probably lean towards Roam. Currently there’s a chasm between two poles.

On one hand we have information handling and on the other there’s knowledge management. It’s actually clear you can perform handling and management in either product; the only differential is in how each product behaves and expresses inputs and outputs.

There’s a gray area in between these two approaches though and it’s an arena waiting to be exploited and capitalized upon. This area is open to products that offer cross-functional capabilities of both approaches. At the time of this blithering there’s a plethora of products jumping into this area. One in particular jumps out to me, and that product is Amplenote; it seems to be a perfect example of filling in that gray area between handling and management.

A note of interest though (maybe a reality check) is that these products have no current track record of being infused or recognized officially into corporate environments and systems of work where knowledge management is indeed a commodity.

This is a curious thing about the digital note arena; it’s often spoken of in terms of personal knowledge management (PKM). This is reinforced by the many experts arriving on the scene who are either solepreneurs and content makers via social media and video. I personally think this is an awesome example of a capitalizing upon the needs of users who demand content to placate their need to know stuff about stuff. And so it should be; as this has become very lucrative for a few notable providers of content who’ve monetized their offerings within specific UX associations with software/services.

It has to be noted though and observed that; the PKM arena is indeed aimed solely at single users who may indeed become solepreneurs too and thus jump into the ever growing arena in itself of content creating. Small business owners seem to be jumping all over these products; those who need a tool to manage their processes and communicate with small teams.

IMO there’s very few that stick out as being thought leadership within this arena. Marie Poulin, August Bradley, Red Gregory, William Nutt, Khe Hy and the one and only (content creator) Danny Hatcher are at this time recognizable and very influential within the no code apps related to PKM. What they produce regarding systematic frameworks for personal, academic and business productivity is rather amazing.

So this takes me back (maybe 10 years or so) to the file format wars of the mind/visual mapping arena; where Mindjet dominated and others battled for bums on seats with the hope of adding to their particular file format. It ended in a landscape of what is synonymous with what we may be seeing potentially happen within the PKM markdown type of arena right now. That landscape was littered with the bodies of many a software who dared to challenge the king at that time (Mindjet).

Of course; we don’t have file formats to worry about within the digital information handling and knowledge management arenas. We have Markdown and that’s killed the graphical mappers hopes of dominating their file formats. It just doesn’t matter anymore.

Another interesting note regarding adoption of visual mapping and indeed digital note taking (DNT) products/services is the current lack of adoption into the mainstream of the corporate working mechanisms.

When I was heavily involved within the visual mapping arena, I did actually experience and witness a few corporate entities who subscribed to offering their employees access to a mainstream visual knowledge mapping product. Alas though, these instances were so scarce as to really make mentioning this a useless observation.

The reality of tools such as MindManager, MindMapper, Xmind and the notable ConceptDraw suite is that they’ve never broken into the mainstream of corporate. Yes they did garner much interest in focus groups within corporate; yet the tools them selves in reality became the secret weapon of individual and internal-preneurs.

I would say the same may apply to the DNT products at this time.

I could blither on much more about this most compelling arena; and if I do this article won’t be a January article at all. It is incomplete thought as much of this arena is at this time. It’s developing (evolving) as you read this and may indeed in time morph into something else. It’s an exciting arena to be inside, be involved with and to witness the potential for a battle of products to be played out in the theater of war for dominance.

In as much as this article is incomplete on purpose; it’s really up to you the users, note takers an makers and content makers to add your 10 cents worth.

I look forward with anticipation to reading comments from the content makers, experts and thought leaders.


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Why the surge in digital note taking?

Since February 2020 the lockdowns have forced us all to divert our attention to being more focused on activities and interests that seem to have the key word of productivity associated with them.

From physical/mental health to the pursuit of intellectual health (and wealth) even Spirituality of all shades too; we’ve certainly added to the landscape of seekers who’ve found and enabled newer and even rediscovered older tools for our personal, academic and business KPI’s.

The surge in digital note taking (DNT) is interesting, and hey what is digital note taking anyways?
Well it’s real simple; DNT is good old note taking inside digital products; that’s all.

These digital products?
They’ve been given prominence by the huge number of users that have initially and artificially been engorged by the huge number of people stuck and home due to the Covid thing.

The list of DNT products is getting stupid crazy long, and they’‘re being developed at an exponential rate so as to (by nature of the market) totally overwhelm and confuse any prospective user of such products.

For the most part they’re all mostly cloud based; a few have become established as mainstream for now and they’re all pretty damn good at what they purport to do.

Roam Research seems to be the leader of the pack by the sheer numbers of users. I even have colleagues and friends who’re raving about Roam; and yes there’s a cult following of Roam too.

The other product that is as mainstream as Roam is a surprisingly newcomer to the DNT arena and the product is called Obsidian.

And as far as I can view at this time there’s another upcoming and mainstream product called Remnote that seems to be capturing a Huge amount of deserved attention too.

What to do though; as an old school dude, I still take notes inside my old pencil and paper moleskin note book. The newer approaches are indeed enticing aren’t they?

I’ve actually tuned into Notion as my default for information handling.
Roam is an ongoing learning process for me and TBH Remnote seems to be the tool I may settle with as its local storage and suits me just fine regarding personal privacy and data security.

I mentioned all or most of these newer DNT apps are cloud based; and that’s a problem for many like me who rely on E2EE and 2FA.
End to end encryption and two function authentication may be something you’ve willingly overlooked due to some of these products looking and behaving oh so proficiently; yet the lack of security and privacy leaves users opened to intrusions and data mining.

Looking at these products with their standard bullet point structure and lack of file/folder structure (Obsidian excluded); they seem to be another expression of what a knowledge managed Twitter flow would and should look like. BTW I don’t use the word hate a lot but I do truly hate Twitter as a platform for vitriolic shit talk, bullying and vile chatter; yet it works as a social media portal (such an oxymoron eh).

Digital note taking though eh; it’s almost becoming standard, and the question we often are asked of by friends and colleagues is “what product do you use. The cult of Roam has ensured Roam as being, wel a cult following that borders on fanaticism (the good kind).

Yet as I scan through my phone (both ios and android) I am able to take notes and sync if I wish to the cloud and desktop too; and all for free. No they don’t have the functionality of Roam et al, yet Digital Note Taking is here and it’s here to stay.

The further development (read evolution) is astonishing and rather overwhelming. Look up the blatant copies of Roam and you’ll get the gist that there’s a lot of un-originality around too.

Obsidian was without a doubt a reaction to Roam and then we have Remnote that is focused on knowledge retention (super relevant) and spaced repetition too.

There are tons of other unoriginal copies of these products (basically Roam) yet they all have their relevancy for the water to find its own level eventually and maybe what shall emerge is a convergence of tools into a newer and more relevant standard. Markdown is the thing though eh, and we are preserving textual thoughts, feeling and potential game changing actions via the MD realm and preserving our thought Journaling for future generations to ruminate over.
The here and now though looks like a battlefield that may be eventually strewn with the bodies of developments that came, tried to conquer and failed; yet there may be a few who shall even usurp even the current leaders. Time will of course tell for sure as it always does.

I must not fail to mention the battlefield includes a too I have settled with for my personal, academic and business knowledge models; that product is Notion. It has quite simply transformed the ways I create, manage and express my information and knowledge.

The question though that I cannot fathom an answer to though remains to be: Why the surge in digital note taking?

Pray tell the answer?

Sunday, December 20, 2020

What a roller coaster ride 2020 has been.

It’s been a doozy hasn’t it?

The year actually started off rather well, although we did have a glimpse that the World Health Organization and the Communist party of China were keeping the whispers of some kind of virus emanating from Wuhan a real well kept secret from the global media. Yes they were basically lying; those entities are good at the lying game eh.

And then splat; the shit hit the fan.
We all basically shut shop for around three months; well we did in my neck of Canada. It was all kind of surreal at first wasn’t it? And then the reality checks came one after the other.

Regardless of how the whole thing came at use like an out of control train; we seemed to handle the national shutdown rather well here in Canada.

We all basically couldn’t go the factory, store or office to work and remote working schedules became the norm for some white collar workers at least.

It did seem that opportunities dried up, and as fellow colleagues within the knowledge management field cried like me; where the hell has our clients gone? Of course the covid scenario affected everyone; blue and white collar alike, we all were affected and stopped in our tracks by the so called virus.

Some of us became depressed and shrunk back into ourselves, sought help from therapy that became solely an online service all of a sudden, and many simply shrugged it off and became a tad more inventive.

Now if depression and stress has been your journey, I wish you well hoping you have sought out professional help to get back on track to becoming more positive and productive for you and your families.

If you’re the number of people who shrugged it off and viewed the shut down that forced the reality of remote and virtual as more inventive ways of making a living; I salute you.

For me; I must admit I did get a tad down in the dumps for a short time. Then my wife kicked my arse into gear and encouraged me in her own special way to pick myself up and reset the ways I may seek out meaningful connections and opportunities.

I began by looking at the landscape of horrible, terrible, awful wrecks of businesses that had folded pretty much a month after the lock down. I looked in awe at the carnage this out of control train called covid has caused to many of my former close colleagues business models.

Of course the reality check for me was that my contracts were for the most part remote to begin with and I did still have some residual income heading my way due to my relationships with quite a few corporate survivors.
Yet the underlying question I was asking myself was, “why did my colleagues fold so easily a month into the lock down”?

The answers became very real to me when I connected with a few of my colleagues to ask WTF happened to their business models?

One after another they all stated they didn’t have a system in place that would have guaranteed their sustainability. The system I speak of is one of assuring their business processes were available both as hard copies and of business local and cloud based too in a systematic format.

At that time I was investigation a curious cloud app called Notion and entertaining an interest in an even more curious web app called Roam Research.
I chose to dive into Notion as I was in dire need to get myself into gear and become more savvy regarding creating a framework that would maybe become the new model for me.

And so I dived into Notion. Now as I blab here I am currently 8 months deep into using and abusing Notion. I’ve met some very interesting and motivational thought leaders in the process and have become a little more than a tad changed due to my exposure to Notion and some thought leaders within the Notion Universe.

Offices have been my preferred mode of operation for processing my work, connecting with clients and meeting potentials. That kind of halted when the lock down happened, and as I write, the office is gone (maybe forever).

I employed people, I personally interacted with people one on one and I really enjoyed that aspect of business. That too has ended for the most part and I don’t see any of this returning to the personal touch any time soon.

Ah! Back to Notion.
At first I looked at this new curious product/service and thought “Oh another cloud app that promises it’ll be your one thing”.
Strangely enough it has almost become my one thing as far as creating, managing and exchanging (sharing) potentials and probabilities of my business models.

It has indeed been an enlightening journey staring with Notion.
Yes it was a journey and to say it was a smooth ride would be lying through my teeth. It was and has been one of the most frustrating and angst driven journeys that has caused me to consider seeking out an anger management therapist......again (yes again).

Frustrating was an understatement to be frank; learning Notion, whilst worth every minute spent angrily screaming at the product and myself (yes anger management); I finally found via the Notion universe two thought leaders who became mentors to me and countless other by way of their video YouTube training of Notion.

These two brilliant people are Marie Poulin and August Bradley; their Twitter handles are @mariepoulin and @augustbradley respectfully. There have been others too that I have consulted with, yet these two are indeed thought leaders of the highest calibre who took the time to mentor and encourage me to have more patience regarding what turns out to be an ever evolving Notion Framework.
I encourage you to seek them out at Twitter too; as well as many other leaders within the Notion Universe such as Danny Hatcher @DannyHatcher, Ali Abdaal @AliAbdaa.

Databases, kanban boards, Knowledge management at a higher level and team consultations were what I have accomplished with Notion to date. Are there other products that perform and offer like functions? Yes of course there are, they’re all pretty good but Notion has of all products I have surveyed thus far the best customization functions and capabilities and they’re expanding and improving almost weekly.

So here I am at the end of my blithering to tell you that you too can experience my most frustrating journey to date in my long business life; that if you dare, and I do dare you to. You will simply thank me after you experience the same as I have.
Notion has for the most part become my virtual office, and I find it hard to admit this as my virtual office for many years has been TheBrain.

Go grab Notion it’s free for personal use and super affordable if you wish to buy into it. Go for it and allow Notion to assist you to develop into the knowledge worker you deserve to be; in control and assured of knowledge success.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

The lure of those Cloud apps; that is until the Cloud fails you

 The lure of those Cloud apps; that is until the Cloud fails you.

Oh boy; when it fails you, it fails you big time eh?

Have you ever been just about to go on line to chat with colleagues or to make your super human presentation and the Cloud simply goes for a walk on you? Yup its happened to me numerous times, and when it does happen it’s usually epic.

There are a growing number of cloud apps that are simply phenomenal in their approaches to offering us ways to create, manage and present our thought processes in the cloud.

To mention a couple of notable’s such as; Notion, Roam Research is clear the cloud based app services are growing at an exponential rate; and they’re damn good. Knowledge management is at the core of these product offerings.

The caveat of course is the fact that most are cloud based and not native to our local drives. This is an issue for many with strict security and privacy processes to follow.

The mentioned apps are rather good at what they do; Notion as a single point landing page for all of your relevant thought processing and Roam Research for some pretty damn impressive researching capabilities with back linking as the strength of their approach. Obsidian of course is the new kid on the block that may challenge even the powerful Roam., due to it being dedicated to being a local drive product and not exclusively cloud based.

I mention these products merely as a snapshot into how knowledge management and mapping has developed in the past few years. No longer are visual thinkers of the past using the mind mapped format to create, manage and express (share) their relevant information and knowledge repositories. A growing number of knowledge workers are turning to the mentioned products that offer a more streamlined and somewhat comfortable linear framework for working at personal, academic and business levels.

What has struck me recently is that a few of my prominent visual mapping colleagues have dropped (yup ditched) their preferred graphical mapping products to be seduced by these new approaches to how we may aggregate data into information, contextualize it and enable it to become a usable and improvable knowledge base. I don’t blame then TBH.

I believe it was Tiago Forte who recently suggested that software/services have as little as 5 year life spans these days as the nature of app evolution suggests products must be developed in such a way so as they can acquiesce to the dominance of newer and more functional products in the future. And this is why these new products are using markup as their textual language within their products. This makes it so much easier to transport data, information and knowledge between products.

Most, if not all of these products (except Obsidian) mentioned though are cloud based; and for me this is an issue of ownership of data, privacy and security. None of which are guaranteed by any cloud products at all. Yes I know, it’s a choice many willingly make, yet I believe we have as a collective been seduced into giving up our privacy to the cloud via some of these excellent and even brilliant apps. The data mining that obviously goes on within this arena is quite disturbing and a reveal of how deep modern app product/services openly and proudly data mine their users personal, academic and business data.

I must admit I am using Notion at this time; yet I continue to use as my preferred graphical mapping, and TBH I get things done just as fast as I would with products such as Notion, Roam and Obsidian.

The things we used to do on our personal computers as little as five years ago now for free; we’re actually paying subscription these days in order to get the same things done.

The Cloud though; when it fails you the shit hits the fan; not so with local based software, and this is where the mentioned Obsidian wins to a degree. Yeah but we all need the cloud now don’t we? Yes to use between devices and to sync and to have at our fingertips all of our relevant data.

I agree; It’s true we really do need and rely upon the cloud sync don’t we; I do to a degree too.

What’s your thoughts regarding these products, their offerings and promises to make our thought lives more effective? The industry that has grown out of these products is phenomenal, impressive and scary at the same time. The courses offered to users in order to get them to a point of mastery (or slavery) of a product is genius marketing and herding at its best.

The second brain claim doesn’t grab me at all, yet it’s also a genius commercial grab. The second brain courses cost a lot of money when you could actually just learn it on your own and become your own expert. Many simply don’t want to do the work of learning and accept the grab on their reliance on having and learning anything in this age instantly. I guess paying someone to do the work for you is the standard these days.

I say; use your own first brain as it’s absolutely free; did you know that?

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Procedure, Process or System: what matters to you?

 Procedure, Process or System: what matters to you?

I recently started using a notable cloud markdown based knowledge management tool. Well in reality it’s a pretty damn good evolution of Evernote that’s evolved way past any users expectations. Dangerously and out of control way past anything expected or imagined.

And as of the writing of this blog post, I’m 4 months in; and still chasing my own tail in a perpetual mind **** of setting up a framework and making no tangible gains of realizing the obvious (to everyone else) of just using the tool.

Yes maybe you’ve come across a most useful product others so successfully use, and you thought; “hey I’m gonna use that too and become more organized and as successful as them”.

And here I am 4 damn months in and none the wiser.

So I’ve pressed the pause button and gave myself a slap on the head and said out loud “What the heck (I used a stronger taboo word) are you playing at guy.

OMG I should really know better; after all I’m the one usually helping others who seem to be trapped in some kind of information maelstrom. What struck me though was that I’d been had by the age old trick of grabbing attention by functions and capabilities. And they’re pretty damn awesome functions and capabilities too; yet there’s just too many to be of any practical use to me, you and everyone else. Synaptic overload was the result.

By way of this experience I realized I was stuck in a process trap, and that process whilst (in reality should be) enabling in the long term a systems approach to the tool; successfully disabled my cognitive realization of the larger system.

I had to remember I’ve used a specific tool for almost 20 years that graphically managed all of my relevant processes supported by procedures. And these processes I managed and improved were part of a system of working I had made standard throughout my knowledge work. It just worked, so why go looking for something new to satisfy my curiosity for new tech.

There was just no need to go looking for another fix to satisfy my need for functions and capabilities. Yet I did fall off the wagon and went looking for a newer, better more attractive alternative.

Yes I was stuck inside a process and disregarded supporting procedures of investigation, and I willingly forgot about the wholeness of the system.

So I want to leave you with questions:    

◙ What is more important to you regarding perpetuating your own system?

◙ Are processes important to your system framework?

◙ And are supporting procedures realized as the drivers of your processes?

Oh I believe you know the answer as I do; Think Wholistic and realize system.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

They’re everywhere and they’re part of the process; Oh my!

 Our graphical formats are in many cases the least of our worries when we deal with clients and their internal issues.

I have a good old belly laugh when I consider the reality that ego plays such a prominent part in how many individuals position themselves within any arena; especially that of our clients who call on our skills sets.

Many of us have been around the knowledge and systems management arena for some time, and there’s stages we all go through in our personal, academic and business lives.
Ego is one of them, and when the dreaded ego thing raises its ugly head, we are presented with a stage that is full of unintended clarity. The script has been written (imagined and planned), the chosen actors are handled into place, and the audience has been pre-conditioned. The outcome is rather scientifically assured

Have you experienced this very same scenario; I’m thinking it’s the same or similar in structure for us all. In other circles the ego is expressed in the proverbial role of the Agent Provocateur. Yes that person whose aim (regardless of agenda and handler) is to enter a group and to cause disruption and eventually the demise of their target by way of deception, false (fake) news and to cause endless useless processes of misdirection so as to make their target and audience unmanageable and rather useless. Then the real agenda unfolds; that of attack, dominance and eventual hostile takeover. 

The outcome is indeed scientifically assured and we see it time after time in every arena we service don’t we? Let’s face it, the media (fact or fake) use this very process so very effectively.

The seed has been planted, the values have been established, the beliefs are manipulated and the thoughts flow with precision. Those thoughts choose an emotional response and ultimately the audience is led into actions that are so (common and special cause) predictable by the provocateurs and handlers.
Yet we as Knowledge Architects arrive at a client’s place of operations knowing all of this probability and potential. Well I certainly hope you and I arrive prepared and have fully profiled our client’s original concerns and needs. Yes there’s more profiling by way of our auditing methodologies employed and applied.

We help people, institutions and corporate; yes that’s what we do at the core of our services as consultants. And we are knowledge Architects who arrive to assess (audit), profile and to create a framework for continuous improvement within our client’s thinking and doing environment’s.
The push back is that resistance to change that’s given stage by the plans of the provocateurs. And as graphical thinkers; we are charged with a responsibility to do our best to achieve a consensus. That agreement status our graphical work wishes to achieve.

Graphical mapping is merely one aspect of our communications skills for sure. And no we are not trained psychologists, (well I’m certainly not); yet we have accumulated so much understanding of the human condition in and through our delivery of procedures, processes and systems. We understand the most important function of any system, and we communicate with clarity towards it. Yes it’s the people for sure. Have you experienced that resistance to change within your client’s environment as you create frameworks for BMS continuous improvement? And how have you dealt with it?

Friday, August 7, 2020

The systems thinking employees: where are they?

Over the years of involvement within visual knowledge mapping/management; I’ve realized a mindful place (mentally, and even spiritually) where I contemplate and apply the continuously evolving mental models of understanding relating to information and knowledge.

And again; over the years I’ve been introduced to quite a few models that overview and detail knowledge base repositories for those who seek to be more acquainted with and practice the tools, methods and mindset of systems thinking.

What has impacted me though recently is the fundamental gaps that exist within the hierarchy of society regarding the understanding, use and sharing of the mindset of systems thinking.

Systems thinking in general is and continues to be the perceived domain of business and in particular corporate business regarding process and system.

The regular person in many cases looks at systems thinking as a set of tools and methodologies (system in itself) for business rather than it being a tool for personal development.

I recently walked through a manufacturing facility with all of its various processes that support their system of operation. I was impacted by the regular people on the shop floor who seem to be performing mundane tasks according to their work process instructions (procedures).

Yet talking to many of the line operators I was struck by their profound and natural understanding of procedure, process and system. They were systematic and systems thinkers.

Yet this profound understanding by line working employees is not in any way tapped by the OEM org or their system of operations. And this got me thinking; how can systems thinking be more formally encouraged and taught by way of clarity of communications within industry; especially for the most important part of any process.....People!

Your thoughts?