Last night, I had the pleasure of being a guest speaker/lecturer at DePaul University.  My colleague Heather McClain, who works in IBM's academic initiative area, introduced me to Professor Alan Burns last month.  He teaches a class in Knowledge Management Systems, and asked me if I could visit the class and discuss knowledge technology from the IBM Lotus perspective.

I've never spoken in an academic setting before.  This was an incredibly cool experience.  We spent two hours (about 45 minutes longer than I anticipated) looking at the history of Notes in the marketplace, where things are going in terms of productivity, collaboration, and knowledge, blogs, wikis, and RSS, and some of the more advanced research projects going on in this area at IBM.  The students were very interactive and asked great questions.  The ability to discuss some of the trends over the years with a bit of hindsight and some fun stories was really cool.

We talked a lot about the way the nature of work has changed.  As I've mentioned previously here, about 30% of US IBM employees work from home or mobile offices.  Yesterday, for me, that was a combination of two different coffee shops, a University classroom, and my home office.  It also was in time chunks -- with shifts often taking place between "personal" and "business" computing.  The idea of a 9-to-5 workday is completely extinguished -- the work is done when the work needs to get done.  

We talked about differences in the ways companies employ technology.  How some companies try to legislate things via policy -- like "no personal use of the web during business hours" that are relatively impractical (is cnn.com/business personal or business use?).  How sharing knowledge still requires a cultural change at many companies.  How instant messaging changes cultures.  How voicemail is dead for so many of us -- it's just too asynchronous.

One of the great tangents that both the evening classroom discussion, as well as my daytime panel on customer evangelism, is that transparency is a critical market thought.  It's just simply no longer possible to make bad products -- because of blogs, ebay feedback, or amazon rankings, google is one click away from exposing bad products or vendors or whatever.  Ben McConnell was on the customer evangelism panel, and he's written extensively on this thought of transparency in the market.  It's one of the incredibly empowering aspects of social software,and it will be incredibly interesting to watch where this goes in the future.

Thank you to Professor Burns and his class for such a great evening.  Hopefully, this won't be the last time I talk to a college IT class...it was really a lot of fun.

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