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Ground Zero for E-Commerce: Face-to-face with knowledge in the learning spaces

The essential requirement for a global enterprise is self awareness. Not only does "the left hand know what the right hand is doing," a truly aware e-enterprise senses each of its multiple touch points; all those places where it interacts with customers, suppliers, competitors, media and ultimately within its own organizational structure. Every nerve ending in a successful e-enterprise is tuned to detect change and chance, and the opportunities they bring.

This level of acuity doesn't happen overnight, or easily. It can also take an enormous investment—a big gulp—in terms of technology, professional services and plain old work. Where many attempts at creating the e-enterprise have failed is during the critical building stage, where the tools and techniques are knitted together. Like a ship at sea, a tiny navigational error at the beginning of the voyage can mean the difference between finding port and drifting into danger.

How to Make the Correct Choice?

Education is clearly key. Understanding of the marketplace, the building blocks available and the knowledgeable partners to align oneself with all play roles. This understanding can be developed slowly, over time and space, through prolonged educational and sales cycles. And that's exactly how many of today's enterprises are slowly finding their way toward self-awareness and success.

There's another way. Industry conferences and exhibitions provide a total immersion approach to learning that can leap-frog over the typical, slow, inefficient learning process. In the course of three days, the accumulated knowledge of all the vendors, professional service organizations and industry experts can be tapped in a focused, planned experience. KMWorld 2001 (October 29–November 1, 2001, Santa Clara Convention Center) is one such event. Its billing as "the world's largest knowledge management event" is more than a mere marketing hyperbole. Completeness of industry coverage, from the newest start-up vendors to the old-line stalwarts, is necessary for such an immersion to succeed. Half a solution doesn't cut it. Half-size events aren't adequate for the needs of today's decision makers either.It's instructive to hear what the organizers of KMWorld 2001 say about their program:"You will learn to ...

  • -------;

Deploy KM tools within organizations and discover the types of technological solutions we can expect in the near future;

  • Embed KM processes and models into an organization's business processes;;
  • Determine and implement the most effective KM strategies; and;
  • Capture, manage and access content and business know-how for competitive advantage;

.”

This is not small bananas. These elements—this event’s deliverables—construct a nearly ideal roadmap for the emerging e-enterprise. Each touch-point is present here: discovery, instruction, advice, action and vision.

Commit and Get In It

The thing about confabs such as KMWorld 2001 is that they are not hands-free injections of knowledge. That would be sweet, but it just doesn't work that way. You don't walk under a shower and come out smarter and squeaky-perfect. It's a collaboration, in which the attendee (you) and the instructors (everyone else) share an obligation to mix it up and get their hands dirty. Here's a tip: DO NOT bother to attend a face-to-face event unless you intend to wade in neck deep until you find your own path out of the mire. Those who expect a quick-pill solution do so at their own peril, and practically assure a wasted investment and a lost opportunity for your organization.

I've organized a few events such as this (including some KMWorld events a while back), and the most gratifying feedback one can get, for lack of a better phrase, is “the joy of the unexpected.” When attendees tell you they came with a very specific list of goals, but walked away with new knowledge they had no way of anticipating, well, it doesn't get any better than that.

When KMWorld 2001 is over, I can almost guarantee there will be examples of that serendipity. You can't NOT step into good luck when it is prepared for you at every turn. The place will reek with opportunity. The only question remaining is whether you will give it a go, or miss it. And to my way ofthinking, there's not a choice. You can't subtract knowledge by attending a confab; so there's really no downside. The single factor to consider is: how much can I absorb?When the books are written about the beginnings of global e-commerce, confabs such as KMWorld 2001 will be identified as the places where knowledge leapt in great exponential bounds. I like to think of face-to-face events as accelerants—gasoline on the match. Go there. Light it up

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