Category: Knowledge Management

My 5-minute productivity method



I am always struggling with the relationship between aspirations and capacity, something I’ve really only grown aware of in recent years.  In part by blowing far beyond even my substantial capacity for too long with some family crises, and in part by reading the really smart book On Grand Strategy, which is largely focused on the singular point that aspirations must not exceed capacity.

One of the ways I try to get more done inside the time, space, and energy I do have is to try to spend 5 minutes doing a lot of things.  Can I do that thing in five minutes?  Could a five minute version of that thing be good enough?  Very often the answer is yes.

I also turn it around and imagine my future self saying to my present self, “you couldn’t even spend 5 minutes on that??”  I don’t want that to happen.

One of the most productive things I do almost every day is sit and think through a single topic for five minutes, usually with pen and paper.  I will also read a book for 5 minutes if that’s all I can do.

You know the GTD advice that if something can be done in 2 minutes, then you should do it right away? I think this is a related concept.

And that’s five minutes of blogging on that.

David Gurteen talks about truncated “Knowledge Cafes” with five minute talks.  That reminds me that I learned how much could (Read more...)

7 steps I take to get value from what I read: Notes on note taking & review



A friend asked me recently what some of the core principles are in my note taking and review system are. I get a whole lot of value out of my note system and I love talking to notes nerds.  But not notes for notes’ sake! For making an impact on the world, for the better.

When I read Dan Pink’s book A Whole New Mind and learned about what he calls Symphonic Thinking, or the ability to find connections between seemingly disparate entities, as a key thinking pattern for the future of work, I thought “wow, that’s what I’ve been doing already! I’m going to do it more deliberately!”  And so I regularly cite research, reading, things I’ve heard on podcasts and more in my day job and my work outside of work.  It’s one of my superpowers, but I really believe it’s something far more people could help the world with. I recently changed my Twitter bio to read: “Sharing thoughts for growth-oriented people about how information can be synthesized to build power to make the world a better place.

My notes come from a wide variety of sources, but most commonly from things I’ve stopped and typed up into Roam Research after I’ve heard them read aloud to me either by Pocket, which I feed with links from Twitter using an IFTT applet that sends the links in any tweets I favorite to pocket, as well as a few key RSS feeds. I also read a (Read more...)

Shelf.io closes huge $52.5M Series B after posting 4x ARR growth in the last year



Covering public companies can be a bit of a drag. They grow some modest amount each year, and their constituent analysts pester them with questions about gross margin expansion and sales rep efficiency. It can be a little dull. Then there are startups, which grow much more quickly — and are more fun to talk about.

That’s the case with Shelf.io. The company announced an impressive set of metrics this morning, including that from July 2020 to July 2021, it grew its annual recurring revenue (ARR) 4x. Shelf also disclosed that it secured a $52.5 million Series B led by Tiger Global and Insight Partners.

That’s quick growth for a post-Series A startup. Crunchbase reckons that the company raised $8.2 million before its Series B, while PitchBook pegs the number at $6.5 million. Regardless, the company was efficiently expanding from a limited capital base before its latest fundraising event.

What does the company’s software do? Shelf plugs into a company’s information systems, learns from the data, and then helps employees respond to queries without forcing them to execute searches or otherwise hunt for information.

The company is starting with customer service as its target vertical. According to Shelf CEO Sedarius Perrotta, Shelf can absorb information from, say, Salesforce, SharePoint, legacy knowledge management platforms, and Zendesk. Then, after training models and staff, the company’s software can begin to provide support staff with answers to customer questions as they talk to customers in real time.

The company’s tech can also (Read more...)

Dixa acquires Elevio, the ‘knowledge management’ platform helping brands improve customer support



Dixa, the Danish customer support platform promising more personalised customer support, has acquired Melbourne-based “knowledge management” SaaS Elevio to bolster its product and technology offerings.

The deal is said to be worth around $15 million, in a combination of cash and Dixa shares. This sees Elevio’s own VC investors exit, and Elevio’s founders and employees incentivised as part of the Dixa family, according to Dixa co-founder and CEO, Mads Fosselius.

“We have looked at many partners within this space over the years and ultimately decided to partner with Elevio as they have what we believe is the best solution in the market,” he tells me. “Dixa and Elevio have worked together since 2019 on several customers and great brands through a strong and tight integration between the two platforms. Dixa has also used Elevio’s products internally and to support our own customers for self service, knowledge base and help center”.

Fosselius says that this “close partnership, strong integration, unique tech” and a growing number of mutual customers eventually led to a discussion late last year, and the two companies decided to go on a journey together to “disrupt the world of customer service”.

“The acquisition comes with many interesting opportunities but it has been driven by a product/tech focus and is highly product and platform strategic for us,” he explains. “We long ago acknowledged that they have the best knowledge product in the market. We could have built our own knowledge management system but with such a strong product (Read more...)

The growth benefits of blog subscription



I’m not going to write yet another post about how to grow your blog subscribers (in my experience working for blogs like TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb, our key tactics were to write regularly and to break news on topics of widespread interest) but instead I want to share some thoughts on the personal and professional growth opportunities presented by ongoing reading of subscriptions to one or more specific blogs.

You may follow bloggers on Twitter or email, but I find it useful to subscribe by RSS for an interface dedicated to long articles. I do that through Feedly and lately through Pocket, via IFTTT, in order to get the articles read to me aloud on my phone when I’m in transit. (My new favorite is The Living Library, about data and society.)

There’s a four part “growth mentality” model I’m going to use here to talk about the benefits of subscription, but you might appreciate using the model itself for other things as well.

What are the benefits you could capture by growing in this way? I’m motivated to subscribe to blogs for one reason in particular: they are a powerful way to be exposed to thoughtful perspectives on matters that may be useful to me later. I regularly get to cite something at work that’s really useful and that I read on a blog. I high five myself in my mind when I do. Regular reading of high quality longer form sources is a fast track to building out (Read more...)

How to have important blog posts read to you aloud on your phone



Information overload is a defining challenge of our time. It’s tempting to just shut down, ignore all the incredible things on the internet, or rely on serendipity and social feeds to bring you what you need. You don’t have to do that, though.

There are strategies and tools that you can use to tap thoughtfully into the abundance of knowledge being published online without being overwhelmed. One tactic I have added to my practice lately has been the following method of having every new post on a few important blogs read to me aloud. This is something I’ve mentioned to several people, casually, and they’ve told me I should write a blog post about how to do it.

I do this for the blog of the company I work for (Sprinklr). And for other companies and organizations I find so inspiring I want to try to read everything they post too. I just subscribed to Stefaan Verhulst’s excellent new Living Library this way. There are a variety of sources I want to keep good track of.

The newest way I’ve been doing it is by using the mobile app Pocket and its wonderful text-to-speech continuous play audio feature. Bookmark an article to Pocket and it will read the article aloud while you clean your kitchen or walk your dog. The voice is a touch robotic but I’ve gotten used to it.

I put things into Pocket in many different ways, but using the tool If This, Then That (Read more...)

Simplicity, Gut, and Complex Decisions



There’s a saying that simple decisions are best made with rational thought alone, but complex decisions benefit from a big dose of gut feeling as well.

I’ve been employing two methods for dealing with both types of decisions that I thought I’d share here.  I think of things like these as tools I can learn, practice with, get better at, and then deploy in my work.  I typically pick them up reading online, record them on my personal wiki page for reading notes, then transfer them monthly into a variable repetition mobile flashcard app where I review and learn them over time.

For simple, but hard, decisions, I’ve been using for several years a method I call “write it all down and pick 6.”  I learned it in a print edition of HBR that I picked up at an airport , I think it was Stanford’s Baba Shiv that suggested it but to be honest I didn’t write that part down!

The idea is: write down all the factors to take into consideration in your decision.  As many as you can possibly think of.  This feels great, like you’ve really given it a good thought.  Then, pick a very small number of those factors that are most important – at most 6.  Now look just at those 6 most important factors and honestly ask yourself what decision they support making.  This may be more powerful than it sounds.  It’s great.

Second, when you’ve got a complex decision, it can be helpful (Read more...)

Finding new value in old notes



One of the journals I keep is a Daily Q&A journal, which asks the same question each calendar day every year for five years. It’s a great exercise in seeing what’s changed in your life and what’s not; where I’m moving toward my goals and where I’m stuck.

That ability to better understand the present in context of the past is one of the many things that’s valuable about old notes. I’ve thought for some time that if I was going to start another company right now, it might focus on re-surfacing new value from old notes. I love thinking about how old wisdom or information sheds new light on new circumstances. That’s a phenomenon I’d like to think about a lot more. For now, some specific examples.

Today my daily Q&A journal asks “what was the best thing you read today?”

On this day in 2014, I said it was a Chomsky interview in The Sun. Incidentally, I’m reading a wonderful Chomsky book right now that I got in a Free Library walking down the street. (I live in Portland, there’s Chomsky just laying about here.) Why did it take me four years to get back to reading Chomsky? Because the interview wasn’t that good. The book is great though! It makes me think that a great author shouldn’t be judged from one piece.

On this day in 2015, the most interesting thing I read was my own Evernote file of important thoughts recorded in the month of May. (Read more...)

Why you shouldn’t rely on social feed algorithms alone



“We run the risk, with social news algorithms,” Czech media philosopher Vilém Flusser wrote, “of losing our human capacity to select information, an essential part of making decisions, of being free.” (From the Society of the Query Reader: Reflections on Web Search)

That’s a powerful  way of saying it.  Making decisions is the essence of freedom, and selecting which information to focus on is a particularly important kind of freedom in an information-dense world.  As is the case with so many other forms of freedom, it’s also overwhelming and frightening.  Exercising it is a skill that we (hopefully) build.  (Mortimer Adler defines a skill as “a habit of following a set of rules,” in his great book How to Read a Book (video summary).)

I like to exercise my information freedom through source selection (following specific people, subscribing to RSS feeds), source categorization (making Twitter lists, folders in my RSS reader), reading the most recent updates from those sources, AND appreciating social news algorithms that bring selected updates to the top.  Today I retweeted my wife for the first time in a long time, because Twitter’s “You may have missed” algorithm made sure I saw her post.  I appreciate that.

Flusser’s exploration of the implications of these algorithms goes into more detail.  “For example,” he says, “redundant info isn’t removed, but highlighted, creating pressure to conform.”

If freedom is important to you, looking outside the boundaries of the algorithmic stream is important.