Friedman’s “Triple Convergence” and the Role of Leadership in Knowledge Managment

The following blog will reflect on Friedman’s concept of the Triple Convergence and its relationship to knowledge management.  It will also explore the relationship the role of leadership in knowledge management.

Chapter three of Friedman’s broad message of a flatter playing field explores the concept of “the triple convergence”.  He explains that with the use of the ten flatteners, leaders from all areas of business are enabled to “get comfortable with, and develop, the sorts of horizontal collaboration and value-creation processes and habits that could take advantage of this new, flatter playing field” (Friedman, 2005).  Friedman compares the era of Globalization 2.0, which he describes as being “vertical silos” of collaboration to Globalizations 3.0, which he considers to be a flatter, side to side method of collaboration.  The new technology that he introduced in Globalization 3.0 fosters a fresh way of conducting business practices.  According to Friedman, the combination of computers, web tools, and a faster means to retrieve data through fiber-optic cable, businesses are able to connect and collaborate “horizontally.”  Friedman suggests the concept of  “the triple convergence” is “reshaping the whole global business environment” (Friedman, 2005).   In the following blog, the author will explore the relationship of “the triple convergence” to knowledge management and how it plays a role of leadership today.

Knowledge management (KM) can be defined as a process to share, provide, represent, and distribute information in an organized way so that it is available for the use of organizations and individuals. Friedman’s contribution in explaining “the triple convergence” helps us to understand the foundations and relationships that it holds with knowledge management. Today, individuals not only retrieve and view information across networks, they also can comment and share thoughts about the same information through social networks. The convergence of a plethora of technology has enabled organizations in an increasingly competitive world, to access knowledge in a multitude of settings. The use of this knowledge has shaped the way people share ideas through horizontal organizational structures.

The role of leadership, as it relates to knowledge management, has been discussed in many forums. Jarche (2013) describes ways to incorporate KM in a recent blog post titled “From Hierarchies to Wirearchies”. Jarche (2013) explains that organizations should support environments that are cooperative and collaborative and for organizations to be successful in an emerging “network era” it must “support both types of activities”. This will help to encourage “social networking which can increase innovation through a diversity of ideas”. The relationship between these ideas describes how organizations are no longer sending information from top down, but the information is provided “side to side” or within a “wirearchy”.   The following example of provides an example of an organization that supports both of these concepts.

The following paragraphs will demonstrate an example of the role knowledge management plays in leadership today.  XYZ Organization, a cable company offering land-line phone, internet, cable, and wireless services, implemented a strategy to organize and distribute data and information for internal and external stakeholders.  The internal stakeholders include the organization’s staff and the external stakeholders are its customers. By providing the information to internal and external stakeholders helps to “flatten the playing field”.  These efforts focused on outcomes that would improve overall organizational performance to stay competitive in an ever-changing industry.  The knowledge management system (KMS) acted as a compass that provided information to help sales, marketing, technology, engineering, human resources, and innovative operations that provided the individuals of these groups the ability to solve problems and think critically.  The idea is to provide all stakeholders with the same information to be accessed anywhere at anytime.  The KMS is a revolutionary system that changed the way XYZ Organization conducted business.

This has enabled the user, both internal and external, to gain useful information to improve their practical understanding about the products and services that were provided at XYZ Organization, hence, “flattening the playing field”.

References:

Friedman, Thomas L. (2007). The World is Flat 3.0 – A Brief History of the Twenty-First

Century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Florida, Richard. (2005). The World in Numbers, The World is Spiky. The Atlantic Monthly,

pp. 201-265.

Jarche, H., (2013). From Hierarchies to Wirearchies. Retrieved: http://www.jarche.com/2013/03/from-hierarchies-to-wirearchies/

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13 comments
  1. Another great post. I wanted to ask what do you think of a problem Nancy Dixon mentioned in her blog which was people inputting information into an information management system. Nowadays that does not seem to be to much of an issue, yet I feel information is more controlled than what is let on and sometimes people do not share “equally” like Dixon alluded to when describing problems with the first era of KM.

    • There are times when individuals or groups do not contribute to social or KMS forums equally. This is when the leader has the option to determine whether or not this should be closed to a particular group of people or the leader could filter through the comments. At XYZ organization, we did not or could not exclude individuals or groups from the KMS just because of the nature of its purpose. To provide and share information for everyone. To end, equally sharing has its pros and cons, it depends on what the KMS is used for.

  2. Peter Kramer said:

    Do you think that accelerating (via horizontal connections) information/knowledge flow improves or detracts from data accuracy. I regularly get “knowledge” sent to me that I can easily prove to be false. The knowledge wasn’t sent maliciously, but rather by a colleague, a vendor, or a friend who thought I would be interested in the knowledge and how didn’t realize that it was false. I’m struck by how often this happens, and I think horizontal flow makes it easier for lies, sufficiently repeated, to become the truth.

    Of course, a positive aspect of this is when I receive knowledge that I don’t trust, I investigate it, and in the course of the investigate I not only learn that the information was true, but now I have a reference basis for using the knowledge myself as opposed to just knowing a data point.

    • bwatwood said:

      True, Matt, though I would counter that because of the web, the “wisdom of the crowds” many times surfaces and corrects falsehoods. One only need look back at our recent election.

    • Hello Matt, this is a great point and thank you for your question. Yes, data accuracy is always a concern when dealing with ‘free’ knowledge. In social networking anyone can provide information that may be false, bias, or even just someone providing their opinion to something you disagree on. Knowledge Management Systems that I’ve worked on provides an avenue for people receiving the information to send their feedback to an administrator only so that the information can be researched and updated if needed. Even information that is provided in actual professional research may not be 100% accurate because there is always that margin of error. When I read information online I always check the validity of the source and compare it to others before making a determination of whether or not I use the information.

  3. Like you, I found the Jarche blog to be of assistance on providing some addtioanl framework material for understanding Friedman’s points about triple convergence. Given the mission of internal and external stakeholder in your example, I was wondering if this knowledge management system that provided a sort of informational compass encouraged real time interactivity as part of the collaborative process among the varying missions and objectives relative to the differing teams. In other words, could they utilize the interactivity component of these technologies to further accelerate and clarify their goals, stategies and implementaion phases of their specific missions?

    • Hello, thank you for your post. Frameworks for providing a collaborative and cooperative environment are critical to providing, receiving, and sharing information, and, yes Jarche did provide some assistance when discussing these aspects in his recent post regarding “wirearchies”. Regarding your question about the mission of providing information to both external and internal stakeholder and the use of real time interactivity is a great question. The KMS used for the cable company did provide a real-time interactivity solution to the stakeholders. For example, take a call center agent that is answer calls on technical support for XYZ organization. As you know, technology and process changes change on a daily basis and it is critical to provide these changes ‘real-time’ so that employees are able to answer customer concerns and questions effectively. The KMS helped us to do this. If the call center agent stumbled across a question that a customer inquired about, the call center agent could log into the KMS and type in the question and get instant feedback to that question real-time. The call center agent could then not only answer the question that the customer had, but the KMS also had an area to provide feedback to the KMS administrators of whether or not they were able to answer the questions inquiry effectively. This provided the KMS administrators with information to better answer that particular question. This was an ongoing process with thousands of call center agents, field technicians, marketing reps, sales reps, managers, engineer, and customers could get up to date, real time information. On the flip side, customers could do the same by log in to the customer platform of KMS to ask questions and receive real-time answers.

  4. bwatwood said:

    You used two interesting words when discussing Jarche’s article – cooperative and collaborative. Within a distributed network, sharing of information can be very cooperative, yet not necessarily collaborative. We are still a competitive society, thought the web opens up new possibilities for collaboration. It is an interesting balancing act that leaders must walk.

    • I agree with you statement that the possibilities for collaboration is a balancing act. Collaboration within distributed networks can help to build a common ground if the leader attempts to avoid the traps that contribute to collaborating when achieving a particular goal. This requires a leader to know when and who should be included within a collaborate effort. When working on projects, leaders should filter through participants so they are able to achieve the best results. Achieving these results can be done by choosing participants that can contribute at the same level and provide meaningful insights. When the whole population is involved in collaborative events, such as replying to media questions, the results tend to be uneven, resulting in a hodgepodge of ideas that may not be directly related to the event. The whole idea when keeping a good ‘balance’ is to control the network environment to receive information that provides ideas that are able to improve business productivity, transformation, performance, and innovation.

  5. Kelly, I like your comment about a shift from top-down organizations to side-to-side or wirearchies. I don’t know about where you work but it seems as though in my organization, top-down is still the norm. It is just the method of delivery that seems to change. It may be that my organization is just disjointed and disconnected but I am sure there are still organizations that haven’t made this shift yet. What do you think?

    • Hello, in my current role as an academic analyst for a university, I do see areas within the leadership that are top down because a hierarchy system exists; however, when it comes to information sharing, I do see a “flattened playing field” where information is shared from side to side. For example, we use a wiki between departments so that pertinent information can be shared and used. Documents, resources, processes are posted on the wiki so that that knowledge can be contributed. As far as my position at the cable company, that is described in my blog post, the information was also shared side to side. A knowledge management system was used to share information and the answers to the questions within the KMS very rarely came from a President or Vice President level, but rather from the subject matter experts that were either in the field, on the phone, or in the training, marketing, sales department. Overall the KMS was monitored overall by a KMS departmental VP and many supporting administers such as: content editors, documentation specialists, writers, and researchers.

  6. Hello, in my current role as an academic analyst for a university, I do see areas within the leadership that are top down because a hierarchy system exists; however, when it comes to information sharing, I do see a “flattened playing field” where information is shared from side to side. For example, we use a wiki between departments so that pertinent information can be shared and used. Documents, resources, processes are posted on the wiki so that that knowledge can be contributed. As far as my position at the cable company, that is described in my blog post, the information was also shared side to side. A knowledge management system was used to share information and the answers to the questions within the KMS very rarely came from a President or Vice President level, but rather from the subject matter experts that were either in the field, on the phone, or in the training, marketing, sales department. Overall the KMS was monitored overall by a KMS departmental VP and many supporting administers such as: content editors, documentation specialists, writers, and researchers.

  7. Kelly said:

    Friedman does a great job describing the first convergence as “the work flow software and hardware converging multipurpose functions (i.e. faxing, emailing, printing, and copying) from the same machine” (p. 205). The use of tools converging for multipurpose is important. In my past position as an operations manager for a call center we used several tools such as: wimba, collaborate, Snagit, articulate, and captivate to teach employees about cable systems. Effective training practices could not be done with only one of these tools, it was the combination of all of them that helped the student learn about the systems of cable. For example, we used captivate, an e-learning authoring software to not only describe how the signal is transmitted from space to the head-end and then to the persons home, but to incorporate actual videos that show what the head-end looks like. Because there all all types of learning styles we then incorporated sound by using pro tools so that if the student was an auditory learner they could listen to the lesson as well. How does your organization use these tools to provide information effectively?

    Friedman, Thomas L. (2007). The World is Flat 3.0 – A Brief History of the Twenty-First
    Century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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