The Windows Universal Platform App Package and App Bundle

Recently as a part of the debugging process, I had to dig into how Windows Universal Apps are deployed so I could ensure that all the assets in my project were being deployed correctly. I thought that it would be easy to find documentation on the process, but it wasn’t. The process inside of Visual Studio is relatively opaque, and the documentation for the package itself leaves much to be desired.

Packages and Bundles

The first step before talking through how Visual Studio manages packages and bundles is to quickly explain the difference. Packages contain a single compilation of your application. It is targeted for a specific type of processor and processing word width (32-bit or 64-bit). Each package has everything that is needed to install that version of the package to the machine.

A bundle is a collection of packages for multiple processor and word widths. Each of the individual compilations and the required files are contained in individual package files. So, a bundle is a collection of packages – literally. When you unpack a bundle, you get a set of packages.

Visual Studio Package

Visual Studio uses a Package.appxmanifest file in your project to generate the package and settings. Double-clicking on the file reveals a designer:

The interface has a series of tabs that allow you to specify the various settings in the package, including the various icons that you need for the package. However, there are numerous settings available in the XML – like what platforms your solution targets – which can only be found by editing the XML directly. For that, you’ll need to right-click the Package.appxmanifest file, select Open With… and then select one of the XML formats. The file will look something like:

Here, you’ll notice that my solution targets two devices through the dependencies tag that isn’t available in the user interface itself. However, there is a missing element that I expected: an element that allows me to specify additional files to include in the package. Though Visual Studio will include items flagged with properties of content (like the icons) and compiler output, there’s no option to include additional files directly. That’s problematic, since I want to include C++ DLL files. With no way to directly include them in the manifest, and no way to include them as references (because they’re not MSIL/.NET DLLs), I’m stuck statically binding them or manually building the package later.

Debugging and Deployment

Deploying your Windows Universal Platform package is as easy as pressing F5, thereby telling Visual Studio to run the package. However, this process doesn’t use the typical packaging process to deploy the solution. (They’re using Loose File Registration.) In fact, if you try to install a packaged version of the application before uninstalling the Visual Studio installed version, you’ll receive a warning:

The solution is to remove the version of the application that Visual Studio deployed and then deploy the package from the .AppXBundle file. Visual Studio can create the .AppXBundles for you. This is done by right-clicking the project, selecting Store, and finally Create App Package.

The wizard starts by asking the type of package you want to create:

Until you’re ready to get the app certified to go in the store, you’ll want to create a package for sideloading. That is, you want to manually deploy the package to the machines that you want it on without going through the store. When you press the Next button, you’ll see the detail settings for the package:

In this dialog, in addition to setting the output location and version, you select which compilations will be included in the bundle. Once you press Create and wait for the builds to complete, you’ll get a dialog that offers the location for the package and a gentle nudge to try to certify your application for the app store:

With the appxbundle in hand, you can directly extract the files, or you can install the package and review the files in the installed directory.

Extracting the Package

Included with Visual Studio (via the Windows SDK) is the MakeAppX.EXE utility, which can be used to create an application package and an application bundle. It can also be used to expand application bundles and packages so you can see what files are inside. This, then, can show you what Visual Studio put into your bundle. Even if you only select a single processor type and word width, Visual Studio will create an application bundle (.AppXBundle).

Both Packages and Bundles are ZIP based files so you can rename them to .ZIP and use your favorite tool to extract them if you’d prefer to do that rather than using MakeAppX.EXE to unbundle your files.

To extract the bundle, start a Developer Command Prompt for VS 2017 (or whatever version of Visual Studio you’re running), run the MakeAppX.EXE with unbundle, then /v (for verbose) /p bundlename.appxbundle /d C:\TargetDirectory, where bundlename.appxbundle is the name of the application bundle that Visual Studio created for you, and C:\TargetDirectory is the directory where you want the files extracted to.

MakeAppX.EXE unbundle /v /p BundleName.appxbundle /d C:\TargetDirectory

Once you review the directory and figure out the name of the package, you can run MakeAppX.exe again with unpack /v /p packagename.appx /d C:\TargetDirectoryPackage. Obviously packagename.appx is the name of the package, and C:\TargetDirectoryPackage is where you want the directory where the package is to be extracted to.

MakeAppX.EXE unpack /v /p PackageName.appx /d C:\TargetDirectoryPackage

Now you can review exactly which files are being deployed on the device.

Working from the Installation Directory

This approach is fine for applications you’ve created or those for which you have an .appxbundle or .appx file. But what if you want to look at what another application installed – and where? For that, you’ll need to look at the installation directory on your computer. This time, you’ll need an administrative command prompt. This can be done by right-clicking on the command prompt and selecting Run as Administrator…

The directory that the applications are installed in is C:\Program Files\WindowsApps. This folder is hidden – and it’s not one that users have direct access to. We’re going to have to first take ownership of the folder then change the permissions. The first command is the TAKEOWN.EXE command. For this, we’re going to run:

TakeOwn.EXE /F “C:\Program Files\WindowsApps”

This will set the owner of the directory to the current logged in user. The next thing we need to do is to give ourselves permissions to the folder. That’s done with the ICACLS command.

ICACLS “C:\Program Files\WindowsApps” /grant myusername:(F)

In the above line, change myusername with your username. (If you don’t know your username, type whoami and press Enter.)

Once you’ve done this, you can close the command prompt. If you don’t have hidden files visible in File Explorer, you’ll need to go to File Explorer Options (which you can get to by starting to type the name in the Start menu). When the dialog appears, select the View tab, then select the radio button to Show hidden files, folders, and drives before clicking the OK button.

Now you can open the file explorer and navigate to C:\Program Files\WindowsApps. You’ll see a listing of the packages installed on your computer. Navigating into each folder shows you what files were installed with the package:

It’s easy enough to see what is making your application package – if you know where to look.

Refining Real Search

Searching for something you need can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Sifting through your organization’s files can be a long, tedious process. This engagement video discusses how you can narrow down your search results from thousands of items to just one or two. 

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Successful Technology Change and ADKAR

A few of my friends and colleagues have been trained in the Prosci ADKAR method of change management. As a model, it’s a psychological perspective on how to approach change, where Microsoft’s approach for organizational change (as best expressed through the Service Adoption Specialist course on Edx.org) is more of a project management approach. Both approaches have their benefits – and we use both types of approaches when helping clients. The differing views are not so much competitive as they are complementary. You need to understand the psychology of what’s happening with individual users to get them to move towards adoption – and you need a strong project management framework to provide the engine to move the process forward.

The Project Management Approach

Any technology change project has a set of technology components that may include the development and deployment of the solution – or just the integration into the organization’s information technology environment. The part that’s often overlooked is the user adoption of these changes and how users are engaged with the idea that they want the change. Bringing these together in a way that allows organizations to crawl-walk-run is an important aspect of garnering adoption.

In the Beginning

In the beginning, the project is disorganized, with barely a goal to guide it. The faint light of the desired reality eventually coalesces into a project charter and objective for the project. It’s in this very primordial stage that it’s important to establish the business drivers that will indicate success. It’s not about installing the technology or enabling the service. It’s about creating the business value to the organization. This foundation is what the rest of the project is based on. Without it, you’ll struggle to get funding and adoption.

It’s in this stage that the cast of characters forming the team are identified and equipped for success. This is a mixture of reality assessment and skills building to ensure that when the team starts to climb the mountain of adoption, they’ll reach the pinnacle of success.

The work here feels like crawling, since little observable process is made towards the end goal that delivers value.

Playing for Perfection

In the next phase, there’s experimentation, pilots, and profound learning. It’s a time when the training needs are first identified and resolved, governance is generated, and communications are created. Here, too, progress seems slow, because it feels as if you’re driving on the road while you’re building it. However, it’s much better to have just one car on the road you’re building rather than an entire traffic jam of cars running over each other as they try to move forward.

In the development of any good road, there’s the need to establish service stations. In the context of technology, this means creating self-help and enabling the support teams to be successful at helping users use the solution once developed.

Go Forward and Scale

In this final phase of the process, the goal is to share the hard work that’s been done to get it visible to everyone. Here, the preparation and learning that’s happened in the preceding two phases show their true colors as disruptions and frustrations are both minimized.

It’s here that much of what is in the ADKAR model starts to become visible as awareness campaigns create desire and communications impart knowledge.

The ADKAR model

The ADKAR model consists of a series of stages:

  • Awareness – Knowing that the change is necessary
  • Desire – A desire to create the change
  • Knowledge – The knowledge of how to make the change
  • Ability – The ability to do the skills and behaviors that will bring about the lasting change.
  • Reinforcement – The commitment to make the change stick.

Before I review each of these individually, it’s important to note that this isn’t the only psychologically-focused change methodology. Kurt Lewin proposed a three-step model of unfreezing, changing, and refreezing. There’s a stages of change model created for smoking cessation. John Kotter has a model for organizational change that fits somewhere between the psychological model and the project management model. (You’ll find more about his approach in both Leading Change and The Heart of Change.)

It’s also important to note that much of our thinking about how to implement change comes from Everett Rogers and his book Diffusion of Innovations. Things like the adoption curves you’ve seen, with the early adopters and the laggards, are adapted from Rogers work. ADKAR itself could be seen as a derivative work, as Rogers had models and factors, including the Knowledge – Attitudes – Practices model. This explained that people can develop awareness and knowledge through mass media, but they frequently only change their attitudes when someone close to them says they believe in it, and it’s ultimately a personal decision for them to change their practice. This holds true in any change effort.

The problem with every model is how it breaks down when people attempt to implement it. It’s one thing to read about how to fly a plane and quite another to manipulate the yoke in your hands. The descriptions of the stages are frequently not enough. As we walk through each stage of the ADKAR model, I’ll provide some context about how we’re trying to help make the simple pieces more meaningful.

Awareness

Awareness is more than just being aware that something exists. It’s an awareness that a change is needed. In most organizations, this step is confused with informing. The problem is that informing someone of a solution doesn’t help them understand what the problem is – even if they’re paying attention.

To help organizations improve their ability to get their employees to listen and understand that sending just one email won’t be enough to break through employees’ consciousness, we offer the whitepaper, “Effective Internal Communications Channels,” which helps explain the communication channel options as well as provides some tips on how to write communications so they are read.

Too often, particularly in IT, we jump to the solution before explaining the problem – or reminding people that the problem exists. We explain that we’re implementing Office 365 without helping them see the communications problems that plague the organization today or the frustration that we feel as we struggle to communicate with tools that fracture our conversations.

Desire

This naturally leads into desire. When we properly explain that a change is necessary, it naturally follows that this would lead to a desire to make the change. In fact, desire is often where we expose the proposed solution to the need and where everyone should want to go to the new “promised land” solution.

The problem is that most professionals haven’t ever really had to “sell” their ideas. The content that is created sounds more like education – which is what most folks have done in the past – and less like the exciting and engaging type of content that will create desire.

That’s why we created a set of engagement videos that organizations can license. They’re a set of premade videos for Office 365 that help to engage users in the idea of the change and show them the value they can get from the solution. It’s not about educating them on how exactly to do things in the new system – it’s about making them aware that it’s a possibility and creating a sense of longing for getting it.

Knowledge

A deep yearning to make the change may be too much to ask for, but an understanding of what is expected to be able to make the change is not. Knowledge is about knowing what is expected. We unconsciously go through our days doing whatever the existing strategy is – but a change is going to require a clear picture of what we’re going to need to do.

Here, we’ve provided a ton of guidance. For the change leader, we lay out a plan for what an intranet evolution should look like. We have an intranet roadmap that explains the phases of design to create an intranet. We even explain how to manage controlled documents, how to develop personas, and how to set up security.

For the users themselves, we offer The SharePoint Shepherd’s Guide for End Users as a set of step-by-step instructions. The magic of this is the content becomes searchable and customizable in your environment, so they never have to leave your SharePoint environment to get the help they need. When backed up with our customizable quick reference cards, there’s a complete and unbroken path for users to be able to quickly and easily understand what is expected in the change.

Ability

Knowing is one thing. Doing is something else. Here, the goal is on action. John Kotter explains, in his models of change, that if you skip or skimp on a step, you’re likely to come back to it. Often, we find that lack of ability to do something results from an undiscovered knowledge problem or fear. We may think we know how to have a difficult conversation with a coworker but if we’ve never seen it done in our organization, we may not have enough courage to overcome our fear to be able to have those hard conversations.

Too often, we find that people know they’re supposed to upload a document to SharePoint or start a conversation in Teams, but they’re afraid of doing it wrong. That’s why every task in the Shepherd’s Guide includes a step-by-step video to reduce the anxiety about potentially doing it wrong.

For those organizations that want to provide some instructor-led training to their users, we offer licenses of instructor-led materials that can be adapted to the organization’s needs.

We also offer tools to the site owner to help them design their security in ways that are easy to maintain – and easy to help ensure users have the right access. In our “Site Collection Security Strategy” whitepaper, we explain the relationships between the various components and describe a strategy for making them work together.

Reinforcement

One of the challenges with any change is sustaining it. We get busy, we get focused on other things, and we sometimes revert to old habits, ways of working, and familiar tools. Here, we help by providing a set of videos and articles that you can schedule to be sent to your user communities to help reinforce the change. The engagement videos can double as reinforcement videos reminding users of what the change was for. We also offer continuing skills for corporate communicators.

The key here, like the key to maintaining a diet, is creating something that can be made sustainable. Coupling scheduled sending and premade materials, it’s not only possible to keep the momentum going, but it’s easy. We’ve learned how to keep building engaging videos that are delivered each week through our initiatives like Discovered Truths, where we support an overall cultural change for the organization through simple, five-minute videos each week.

Better Together

When you’re looking for how to change your organization with the aid of technology successfully, you’ll want to look to change management methodologies as well as project management skills to ensure that you get the most value out of the investments you’re making.

Communicating in Layers

You’ve heard the advice: dress in layers. In this video, we explain why you should communicate in layers, too. We discuss how layering is different than just repeating yourself, and why different channels of communication can help get your message out.

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The Ethics of Encouraging Dishonesty

At some level, we all know that being dishonest is wrong. We don’t respect people who will outright lie to us. At the same time, few of us are willing to be completely honest with our crazy uncle about how we really, really feel about him and his challenges. We know that, socially, we need to accept a certain amount of withholding of our true opinion in the name of social graces. However, what happens when policies and systems encourage dishonesty? What are we saying about the way we want to form our culture and the way we want to behave with each other?

Learning About Lying

Paul Ekman reserves the word lying for those cases where the person knows that they’re telling a non-truth. (See Telling Lies for more.) The point is that it’s an intentional action. It requires that the person intends to deceive the other. As a standard for dishonesty, it’s a high bar. It typically transitions us from morally tolerable to ethically irresponsible. Lying crosses the social line and becomes a problem for most of us.

For the most part, we forgive a non-truth when the other person didn’t know that it was a falsehood themselves. We accept that sales folks truly believe their product is the best product for us – whether it is or not. We don’t feel like sales folks are intentionally trying to deceive us; they are themselves just deceived.

Everybody Lies

If we depart from the land of unknown falsehoods and travel into the land of actual conscious lying, we’re confronted with the fact that we all do it. When was the last time that someone asked you about your weight and you fudged just a little? Not so much that it was obvious but, at the same time, also not what the scale told you this morning or last week.

We all lie to the extent that we can get away with it and cause no harm. The ethical line for some of us is naturally close to the line of truth. For some of us less so, but not to the extent that we’d characterize ourselves as liars. After all, they just wanted a round number, right?

Of course, weight isn’t the only thing people lie about. Ask them about their income in the context of finding a suitable mate, and they’ll slightly round up what they make. Conversely, they’re inclined to round down if they believe you’re from the IRS. We’ve all met the women who are perpetually 29 years old. Some of them have serious experience in this game.

If we’ve not dispensed with the convenient but untrue belief that we don’t lie, we can return to those social situations where we lie to protect our social reputation, standing, or relationships. We’re conveniently previously committed when our boss invites us to an event that sounds less fun than a root canal without anesthesia. We can’t make it to friends’ for dinner because of a prior commitment with a pizza and our TV – though we leave the last part out.

It should be clear that we’ll all lie if properly coerced. While most of the time the social norms will keep us to our naturally honest self, it doesn’t take much to knock us off center towards the land of lying.

The Shocking Impact of Nudges

It was just after World War II, and the collective conscious couldn’t quite shake the horror of the atrocities of the Nazi party. The problem was that we couldn’t understand how seemingly normal humans could do such cruel things. How could you run the gas chamber at Auschwitz and come home to have dinner with the family? It turns out that the reasons were varied, as Albert Bandura explains in Moral Disengagement. From this fear emerged a more striking experiment about how easily people could be manipulated into doing unthinkable acts.

Milgram had this idea about how to test how cruel people would be. He created a scenario where test subjects were lied to. They believed that they were taking part in an experiment about the effect of shocks on learning. They were told they were to act as either the teacher or the learner. In truth, all the participants were the “teachers.” The learner was a confederate. As the learner answered incorrectly, the teachers were told to progressively increase the shock the learner received. There was no shock, but they didn’t know that.

The teacher and learner were in separate rooms, and the teachers could hear the pleas for help from the learner’s room as they were reportedly shocked. The question was how many of the teachers would flip the switch that supposedly offered a dangerous, if not lethal dose, of electricity. The answer ranged from a stunning 90% of participants, when given direct instruction and when there were other confederates who agreed with the experiment organizer, to roughly 10%, when there were others who defied the experiment organizer.

Don’t miss that first number. Given conditions where the experiment organizer has the capacity to deprive them only of the experiment stipend – a relatively trivial inconvenience – and a few people they don’t know say they should do it, 90% of people would have potentially killed the learner. Admittedly, the conditions were set up powerfully in favor of compliance, but it shows how it’s possible to get people to do bad things with relatively little persuasion. (The book Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) in addition to Moral Disengagement is a good place to find a longer discussion of Milgram’s work.)

As we’ve already said, it takes very little in the way of encouragement for us to lie. Certainly, the threshold for lying is much lower than homicide. So, what would it take to cause someone to lie?

Encouraging Lying

How tiny a nudge would it take to cause someone to lie? If you were to consider that it’s relatively nothing to get someone to eat healthy instead of unhealthy by making the healthy snacks easier to get to and more in eyesight than the unhealthy snacks, then lying should be easy – and it is. (See Nudge for more on changing snacks.)

Your local dental hygienist encourages you to lie when they ask the loaded question how often you floss your teeth. Most people squirm in their chair just a bit – and not because of the work that’s being done. We can and often do encourage lies, because we ask the questions in ways that make it hard to answer truthfully.

The wily reporter asks the senator “Are you beating your wife less these days?” The question itself is stacked towards a bad answer. Say “yes,” and the next question is “Why are you beating your wife?” Answer “no,” and the next question is “Why are you still beating your wife?” The question itself makes it hard to answer clearly, because it contains an assumption that must be challenged.

Imagine you’re a professional photographer, and you don’t get paid without a model release. However, the policy is one where you’re only asked if you did get a model release – not to actually produce the release. If you didn’t get a release, and you still need the money to pay the mortgage, what are you going to do? In most cases, the answer is lie.

Systemic Lying

In academic life, what if you had to explain how you used a multi-step review process for writing your paper – whose quality was already judged to be excellent – but you didn’t actually do the process? The outcome is already approved and ready to go. All you must do is lie about the process and how you achieved the result. What would you do?

Here, you’re in a trap. If you tell the truth, then you must resubmit the thing that has already been accepted as quality work. You can’t say that you didn’t use the process, as you then fail to explain how you used it to get to the result. To be able to explain how you used the process, you must use the process to create something else. But what if the deliverable is locked, because it’s already accepted?

It should be obvious by now that the result will be someone lying. They’ll say they used the process that they didn’t – and no one in their right mind would – just to check the box and move on.

This last one isn’t hypothetical. It’s a real situation that has since been corrected but for which there was no recourse to explain why the process itself wasn’t appropriate.

Courage

It’s easy to encourage dishonesty – both consciously and unconsciously. Few people will have the courage to break the system if you design it to encourage dishonesty. Too many people will just sign and accept that they must lie to get what they want. However, that’s not the point here. The point here is this: what responsibility does the person who creates the system that encourages lying have?

In my estimation, they have a duty to address the issue as soon as discovered – and take steps to not create the same kinds of boxes again. These sorts of biases and systemic approaches tend to recur over and over again if they’re not confronted directly and completely by actively designing to discourage – rather than encourage – dishonesty.

Connect Calendars

Today’s world is busy. Having a calendar available at the touch of a finger helps, but most of us these days have to juggle multiple calendars, both personal and professional. This engagement video shows how easy it can be to connect your calendars into one place.

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Book Review-Knowledge Management Matters: Words of Wisdom from Leading Practitioners

One of the many things that I enjoy about my life is the ability to walk from one world to another in a matter of moments. I’ve been a part of the knowledge management community for several years now. While far from all my time is spent in the community, I’ve come to know and respect many members of the community who are passionate about making the knowledge that each of us has more helpful to everyone else. That’s why I picked up Knowledge Management Matters: Words of Wisdom from Leading Practitioners. I wanted to know what they had to say about how we can better leverage what we know.

I’d count more than one of the authors as friends, and so many of the book’s conversations rang true to our prior conversations and discussions. But at the same time, the clarity that comes from writing a chapter for a book was helpful to distill conversations over the years into clarity.

Evolution of Knowledge Management

Nancy Dixon provides some evolutionary context to knowledge management. The framework she provides helps to understand the forces that are changing knowledge management. Just as one great continent doesn’t make sense until you understand how tectonic plates have been moving, it’s hard to understand the forces in knowledge management without an organizing framework.

From the relatively simplistic and formulaic solutions for information management through the ability to manage experiences and onward into an era of managing ideas, we’ve been on a journey to build systems – both technical and non-technical – to help us adapt, cope, and even flourish in a world where information and knowledge are as vital as gold was.

Coming from a technology background, I had a front row seat as our capacity to create and manage information exploded. Moore’s law is interesting until you have the flash of awareness that your first computer had 64 KB of RAM and now your phone has 64 GB of RAM. When your first hard drive was 20 or 30 MB, now what you consider to be disposable USB flash drives are at least 16 GB.

Knowledge management is the same way. We started with knowledge bases and limited full-text searching. Today, we have social network analysis and natural language processing sitting on top of our search capabilities to enhance the results we see. The mountain of explicit information has demanded – and received – better tooling, while, at the same time, we’ve recognized the need to enable tacit connections as well.

The Right, The Wrong, and the Maybe

Knowledge management made some big promises, and, in most organizations, those promises weren’t kept. Like a jilted lover, businesses started rejecting knowledge management as a waste of time and money, leading to the proclamation that knowledge management is dead. Of course, like all things, there’s some truth, some fiction, and some unavoidable lack of clarity.

Knowledge management is fundamentally an organizational change initiative. John Kotter and others in the organizational change space admit that 70% of organizational change initiatives fail. (See Leading Change and The Heart of Change). Simply based on the fact that changing the way organizations share knowledge is an organizational change initiative, we shouldn’t be surprised that there are some failures – in fact, a lot of failures. However, this message doesn’t sell well to leadership. Few leaders who are making the decision to do an organizational change initiative know of the failure rate for fear that they won’t fund the project. However, the tragedy in this is that many boards could influence their success if they knew what the risks were.

Knowledge is “squishy.” Some of it is explicit and much more is tacit. (See Lost Knowledge for more on tacit knowledge.) Knowledge exists in relation to everything else, and it seems like everything is always changing. As a result, the knowledge that we have one day may be completely or partially useless the next. For example, changing times made the knowledge of how to create prismatic glass for lighthouse Fresnel lenses no longer useful. As glass manufacturing changed, the knowledge no longer matched how glass was made and therefore became useless. We face similar challenges with knowledge every day. Knowledge becomes useless as some other part of the process changes.

So, while knowledge is a critical asset of an organization, and it is possible, to a certain degree, that we can manage it and encourage its use, in the end, knowledge isn’t stable and won’t be useful forever.

Best Practices

One of the topics that often arises when speaking about knowledge management is the desire to capture and replicate best practices. The idea is, of course, that if there’s a one best way of doing things then getting everyone to do it that way will generate better results. In theory, this is a great idea, but in practice, it doesn’t always work so well.

The first problem with best practices is importing them from one place to another. In the import, we face the high tariff of not invented here. Not invented here is the bias that people have towards using the good ideas of others instead of doing what they’ve done all along. In medicine, it shows up as the doctor using procedures and tools that research has shown to be ineffective, because they don’t want to trust the research more than their own experience – however flawed that may be. Doctors aren’t the only ones who believe their own experiences over the data.

Our marketing world, where claims aren’t verified or conditions aren’t clearly articulated, only exacerbates the problem of our trust that someone else’s practice is better and more effective than ours. Some believe that they’re special, and the statistics don’t apply to them or the environment, and they may be right.

All knowledge is conditional to the environment in which it operates. The same advice may be appropriate in some situations and completely disastrous in others. Consider the advice to water plants weekly. Completely appropriate for many plants. Disastrous for the cactus that expects very arid soil.

There is no best practice. There are only practices proven to work in certain circumstances – and the catch is that, in many cases, we can’t enumerate and identify what the conditions were that were critical to this success. Without that, we have little hope of finding and leveraging best practices.

The best we can do in knowledge management is articulate what has worked and what the subject matter experts believe were the salient factors and hope that the transparency creates a degree of trust that allows people to take the risk of using the practices. (See Trust=>Vulnerability=>Intimacy for more on the impact of vulnerability on trust.)

Strength of Relationships

In a world where uncertainty is king, “an organization’s ability to respond to the unpredictable is largely a function of the strength of its relationships.” That is, an organization’s adaptability is related to how well its people work together. (See The Black Swan for more on unpredictable events.) This means that effective knowledge management solutions must support, enhance, and extend relationships in the organization in a way that increases their strength. Knowledge is not, by itself, capable of protecting an organization from the storms of change. Only the people that bring life to the organization and their relationships can.

For a long time now, knowledge management professionals have known that it’s more than connecting people to content. Person-to-person connection is a huge part of how knowledge management works. The integration of social network analysis to search results indicates a growing awareness even on the content discoverability side of the power of relationships.

Story Telling

Development of stories and their power to motivate and connect people seems like an unlikely thing to cover in a book on knowledge management, but it’s critical to realize that knowledge is useful in our ability to connect with it at an emotional level. (See Wired for Story and Story Genius for more on how stories are written and how they impact us.)

The knowledge that we capture in our systems can be dry and without story. For some content, this works just fine, but for the kind of knowledge that transforms people and thereby the organization, a story – or stories – is required. Stories are constructed in a way that the reader becomes emotionally connected with the characters in the story. This connection drives the desire to find out more and creates the desire for learning that Malcolm Knowles and his colleagues say is important for adult learning. (See The Adult Learner for more.)

Communities and Participation

Communities can be an amazing thing to drive knowledge. However, this only works when the community has the kind of participation that works. Communities need to be of a certain size to work well. Too big, and they become unwieldy. Too small, and they don’t generate enough activity to sustain themselves. As a rule of thumb, only 10% of members will contribute and as little as 1% will be routinely engaged. That means that community sizes of a few hundred are an ideal minimum to keep the conversations happening.

For smaller organizations, this means that the entire organization may be in one community. For larger organizations, the challenge may be keeping the noise level low enough that people feel like the community is theirs.

Communities shouldn’t be organizationally-based but instead interest-based. There are teams and larger groupings that serve the needs to organize around “strictly business.” Communities allow for the cross-functional and cross-locational collaboration that drives innovation.

Reading Knowledge Management Matters may not move you to the inside ring of the knowledge management community. However, it may be a good first step.

Step, Step, Click

I have never been in a literal mine field, and I’m not anxious to explore the opportunity. However, like all humans, I feel like sometimes I’m wandering around a field of emotional landmines. I can’t predict what will set someone else off – or what I can do about it. The truth is that others have the same experience with me. A well-intended comment can set me off if it touches a landmine from my past.

Landmines of the Past

Landmines are leftovers from long-forgotten hurts. It’s the time that you got yelled at, belittled, or felt shame. Those things, while buried underneath the usual pleasantries, are there just waiting to be stepped on, so that they can be unleashed.

We can, sometimes, diffuse or partially diffuse these situations. I know, for instance, that I react very negatively to stonewalling. (See The Science of Trust for more on what stonewalling is.) I react when people suggest that others need to be on anti-depressants for the rest of their lives. (See Choice Theory for more of my views on this.) Both examples are despite a great deal of work and earnest attempts to mitigate the response.

I’ve addressed the obvious ways that these reactions surface. It’s not like I don’t know I’m sensitized to stonewalling. It’s that I don’t realize situations that will set off a reaction. Our children being coy about what they’re doing or who they’re going out with can set it off – though not so much anymore. It seems like every few months there’s a new dimension of hurt that I didn’t quite address.

Flags on the Landmines

The first step to preventing an explosion in yourself is to know clearly where the landmines are. Clearly, I’ve managed to locate a few of mine. I know, at least to some degree, what some of my landmines are. Discovering your emotional landmines isn’t easy, but it does require some honest assessment of your previous responses. The easiest way to find landmines is by looking at the craters that they create.

When was the last time you flew off the handle or lost control? Those are your clues for where the landmines may be. The more challenging step is trying to identify what in the situation set you off. We’ve all been told we’re stupid – but what about that situation was different? We’ve all been subjected to unrealistic expectations, but why did this circumstance cause you to blow your stack?

To find the exact location of the landmine – so we can mark it and be careful about avoiding it – we must move from the generic to the specific. We’ve got to find similar situations where we didn’t get triggered. The funny thing about emotional landmines is that they generally have a very narrow exposure pattern. It takes something very similar to the original hurt to set them off. If you feel like you’re getting triggered by many things, then perhaps you’re not dealing with one emotional landmine but several.

Waning Willpower

To find the key characteristics that triggered us and separate them from those that aren’t important, we have to recognize the distorting influence that our willpower can have. It’s quite possible that you were fuming underneath your breath because you were triggered by something, but at that particular moment, your willpower was high, and therefore your ability to control yourself was more than enough. While it’s great that you maintained your cool, it’s important to recognize that you won’t always have a high degree of willpower.

Willpower is an exhaustible – and replenishable – resource. You’ll naturally have more sometimes and less others. In our quest to find triggers, we can’t ignore that sometimes someone will step on an emotional landmine, and you’ll contain it with your willpower. Other times, even getting near the landmine will set it off, because you have precious little willpower left. (See Willpower for more.)

You can’t eliminate yourself and your level of willpower when trying to differentiate between the times when you were triggered and lost it and those where you did not. It’s entirely possible that the only difference was willpower – and you can’t always depend on willpower.

Disarming Landmines

The beautiful thing about identifying landmines specifically is that you can sometimes go back and work through the hurt that created the landmine in the first place. If you’re sensitive to stonewalling – like I am – you can work on revisiting the situations that created this sensitivity and recharacterizing them or seeking to better understand them.

Albert Bandura became famous with his work to desensitize patients of their phobias. (See Moral Disengagement for more of his work.) He’d take someone with a paralyzing fear and progressively move them through greater and greater degrees of safe exposure to the thing that they were afraid of. We can use the same approach with our emotional landmines. We find safe ways to explore the space that would historically set us off.

Safety

The difficult part is to understand how to be safe as we’re dealing with sensitive issues. Often, we find ourselves reliving parts of our lives where we were vulnerable, and people took advantage of us. We find ourselves temporarily trapped in our former selves. This can be a scary experience. However, the truth is that we know we’ll make it out of the situation – because we already have.

Safety, we find, is a perception. It’s not reality. We feel safe driving our cars and unsafe on an airplane, but statistically speaking, our car is a substantially riskier activity. As we’re dealing with landmines, we want to place ourselves in circumstances and surroundings that are most likely to create the perception of safety. It’s the safety that will allow us to get closer to the original fear or hurt that created the landmine, so we can remove it.

Other’s Landmines

While we may not be able to anticipate others’ landmines, we can create safety for them, so that they can have a greater chance of dealing with their landmines – and prevent us from getting caught up in it.

Available Now: Communications Tips for Everyone

Talking to people is hard. Talking to lots and lots of people is so hard that there are entire fields of study and job titles devoted to it. However, many of us weren’t trained to do this duty. It’s our job to get the information people need to them, but they don’t seem to be listening.

A few months ago, we released our User Engagement video series. We realized that part of the problem with getting users engaged is getting them listening in the first place. How do you get people aware of the exciting new technologies? How do you deliver the useful info when people just skim your subject line?

That’s why we compiled a whole set of communications tips for anyone to be able to use and understand. From the modest memo to the company-wide communications, you don’t have to be professionally trained in the art of conversation to get people to perk their ears up and pay attention. Each five minute video delivers a tip or trick that you can use immediately in your corporate communications.

The first one here discusses what to do when you have to deliver some sensitive subjects to your organization. Check it out:

Just like with our user engagement series, we’ll be slowly releasing all of these videos on YouTube. However, you can sign up and get these videos delivered to you every week, ad-free. All you have to do is click here to sign up today.

Then, if you decide that you want to use these videos internally, you can license it for use in your organization. With no ads, branding, or bumpers, you’ll get all the videos at once, even those that we haven’t made public yet. Click here to support us and your communicators.

Coffee in the Cloud Interview: Improve the Message

Last week, I did an interview with Karuana Gatimu for Coffee in the Cloud about transforming your communications and driving employee engagement. It’s being posted on YouTube today, so feel free to check it out here: https://youtu.be/bN56MCW0LNg.

If you’re interested in getting some more help with your communications, you can sign up for the email series by clicking here. Or if you just need some quick user engagement tips, you can sign up by going here.