Baseline has a feature story exposing bits about How Google works and what we can learn from them. Most of the story focusses on the unique infrastructure Google has been building to support its expanding needs. But most interesting to me is the small bit that takes a lok Inside Google's Enterprise. The article refers to Page and Brin's pronouncement in their IPO that the company is not conventional and doesn't intend to become so. And this appears to be true judging by the way they run the company internally. They won't follow the pattern of what's been done to run businesses in the past if they can find a better way themselves.
This is exactly the attitude that has slowly been building up a revolution inside the ranks at enterprises large and small. Knowledge workers, fed up with the way things are have turned away from conventional software to manage they way the work in favor of better, simpler applications that get out of their way and let them get on with with it.
The article talks about how Google uses a simple system that manages project information using relatively unstructured email as the interface. The system mails employees every week asking what they worked on the week prior and what they plan to work on during the current week. The response is parsed, fed and indexed into a searchable system that is open to the enterprise so that anyone else can track other employees projects that they are interested in. They call it "living out loud".
What they're doing is creating an open system that matches an open knowledge sharing ecology. That openness allows for the "cross pollenation" of ideas. Even better, it provides opportunity for the one thing that is driving nearly every aspect of the innovative web today -- open conversation. They're creating a system that better ensures sustainability because it works with an existing, accepted process -- communicating through email. This removes barriers to use because email is easy. The unstructured nature of the format also means that it can evolve with the needs of the system on the back end. The computer works harder so that the knowledge worker can just dash off a note and get on with their work.
Wow, right? That's revolutionary thinking, and it's so simple on the user-facing end that you hardly have any excuse for not participating. And opportunists that exploit the system by mining and tracking with it will benefit from it immensely. This is the evolving face of knowledge management. The idea of telling the technology to get out of the way so we can do work is what's driving the enterprise blog and wiki revolution. We all need to publish, share and collaborate, but we want to do it as simply and effortlessly as possible. Google embodies that idea completely inside and out.