Gurteen Knowledge-Letter: Issue 4 - 5th September 2000


First Published

September 2000

The Gurteen Knowledge Letter is a monthly newsletter that is distributed to members of the Gurteen Knowledge Community. You may receive the Knowledge Letter by joining the community. Membership is totally free. You may read back-copies here.


Welcome to the fourth issue of the Gurteen Knowledge-Letter. The
lead item this month is a condensed version of an article I
wrote in 1995 on the pitfalls of computer-based communication. I
used the term computer-based communication as although the
article refers mainly to electronic mail - it also applies to
other forms of computer-based communication such as discussion
forums and chat rooms. The article is based on my experiences of
using electronic mail in a global environment when I worked for
Lotus Development as International Czar in the late 80s. With
the huge growth in e-mail since that time - I feel the article
is even more relevant today as it was then.


1 - Trust and Computer-Based Communication
2 - Quotations: Lily Tomlin
3 - An Introduction to XML
4 - Book Review: Walden
5 - Entrepeneurs vs. Educrats
6 - e-learning
7 - Most Wanted - the quiet birth of the free worker
8 - Quick Clicks
9 - Events


Computer-Based communication is immensely powerful. It improves
communication and enables functions of an organisation to work
effectively together. It has however the power to destroy or
seriously damage relationships. If you exchange a few e-mail
messages with colleagues each day, you may not have experienced
problems. However when you:

+ are under pressure

+ receive more messages than you have time to deal with
- flooding you with unstructured information
- imposing demands on you

+ communicate with people
- in different functional groups
- whom you have never met
- whose native language is different from your own
- from different cultural backgrounds
- under pressures & constraints of which you are not aware

then electronic communication may not only be less effective as
a communication medium but may actually become destructive.

The Role of Trust
According to Stephen Covey, co-chairman of FranklinCovey:

"Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It is the
lifeblood of an organisation"

When trust is high - communication is easy, instant and
effective. When trust is low - tension is high, there is much
politicking and 'ass covering' - it is like walking in a mine
field. Communication is difficult if not impossible.

When people have a high degree of trust in each other they work
together extremely effectively.

The Emotional Bank Account
In his book "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People",
Stephen gives us an interesting way of looking at Trust through
the metaphor of the "Emotional Bank Account" (EBA). The
Emotional Bank Account works like this:

I make deposits through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping
my commitments. Conversely you can make deposits in my EBA. On
the other hand I make withdrawals through disrespect, ignoring
you, not listening to you, threatening you and cutting you off
in conversations. Likewise you can make withdrawals from my EBA
with you.

When an account balance is high, trust is high; when it is low,
trust is low.

Unlike a normal bank account, however, you do not earn interest,
what's more the balance erodes with time. This means that you
must continually top up the account. It also means that if the
balance is high you can afford to make small withdrawals now and
then, as long as you remember to make frequent deposits and keep
the balance topped up.

The Role of Trust and the EBA in computer-based communication
Computer-based communication can destroy trust without the
parties concerned being aware that it is happening. It has the
ability not only to destroy trust between people but also
between whole groups.

So called "Flaming" or major incidents play a part in destroying
trust and do so publicly. It is the small everyday withdrawals
from people's emotional bank accounts however that cause the
real erosion of trust. Small withdrawals include: flaming,
making unreasonable demands of people, imposing work on people,
ignoring requests, badmouthing and failure to meet commitments.
These things go on in normal every day interaction between
people, so what's different about computer-based communication?

+ There is no micro-feedback loop. I can go on criticising
you for several pages whereas, if we were talking, you would
stop me during the first sentence. I can also say things that I
would never have the nerve to say to your face.

+ E-mail is like a 'loaded gun'. Having quickly sent a
message in a moment of anger, on most e-mail systems you cannot
retrieve it.

+ In electronic communities you establish many more
relationships where you do not know the people with whom you are
communicating - you may never have even met them. Thus you have
not built a high trust level with them and it is easy to
misinterpret intentions.

+ There is lack of context. You do not know what pressures
the other person is under and so may press too hard at times for
action or a reply and be surprised at a fiery response.

+ E-mail is more public. You should always assume that an
e-mail that bad mouths or criticises someone could end up being
forwarded to them or overseen.

Building Trust
Electronic communication should be used to build trust and not
be allowed to erode it. Endeavour not to destroy trust:

+ do not criticise or blame
+ do not be manipulative
+ do not be arrogant
+ do not discuss emotional issues
+ do not reply in the heat of the moment
+ do not ignore messages to which a reply is needed
+ do not breach confidentiality
+ do not overload the system with unnecessary messages

Simply stop and think before sending a message. Be aware and
remain conscious.

There is the need to build trust - to make small deposits in
people's emotional bank accounts. This is the important bit
that is so frequently is overlooked. Build trust by:

+ thanking publicly
+ informing people
+ apologising publicly
+ demonstrating personal integrity
+ replying promptly even to say no
+ praising people
+ supporting people
+ giving positive feedback
+ keeping promises
+ being honest, kind and courteous

Being proactive in this manner is more difficult. Try to when
using e-mail and ask yourself the questions: "What deposits can
I make in people's emotional bank accounts today?" and "How can
I build and improve relationships within the electronic
community in which I operate?"

In following this advise you may prevent the destruction of many
a relationship and find that your business affairs run much more

See the original article at:

See Stephen Covey:


Some of my favourite humorous quotes are from the American
actress Lily Tomlin. Here are two of them:

"Reality is the leading cause of stress among those in touch
with it."


"I always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been more

My web site has over 100 quotations and short excerpts. A short
list of about 50 of them can be found at:


Extensible Markup Language, or XML, is currently the most
promising language for storing and delivering information on the
World Wide Web. You cannot pick up a technical or business
magazine these days without some reference to XML. At the very
least you should have a basic understanding of its nature and
its business importance.

XML is a markup language similar to HTML in its look and feel.
HTML commands or tags as they are known define how information
or "content" should be displayed by a browser. For example:

<b>This is bold text</b><br>

The tags <b> and </b> switch the bold attribute for text on and
off and the break tag <br> inserts a newline

Although XML looks similar to HTML, XML defines content
structure rather than display attributes. For example, a book
listing could be structured in XML as:

<lastname>de Mello</lastname>

HTML employs a fixed set of tags but the possibilities in XML
are almost limitless. You can define new tags as they are needed
- hence the term extensible in Extensible Markup Language. For
example you could easily add a description tag called
<description> to the above book definition. You can therefore
use XML to describe virtually any type of document, from a
musical score to a database.

XML, as well as being used to store data, is powerful as a data
exchange protocol allowing structured information to be
translated from one web application to another where the stored
data is held on disparate computer systems. This makes it
extremely useful in e-commerce applications for example.

XML is already changing the face of the web and holds out the
long term promise of turning the web into one giant database.
For XML to deliver on this promise however - there needs to be
agreement on the tags used within various markets and interest
areas. While XML's basic language was standardised last year by
the World Wide Web Consortium, the tags that will be used to
define specific data for banking, telecommunications, retailing,
and other areas are still not well defined.

If you would like to know more about XML take a look at the
following portals for XML-related information and links. The
BusinessWeek link gives a good more business oriented overview
where the other links tend to be quite technical.

XML Reference:



Introductions to XML:






This book is a greatly loved American classic but if you are not
American you may not have some across it. If you enjoy
reflecting on life - it is a "must" read.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau is about one man's escape from
civilisation in 1845. Thoreau retreated to the woods surrounding
Walden Pond in Concord Massachusetts and lived there for two
years and two months in a hut, which he built. Emerson had
offered Thoreau the land and the retreat was seen as an
experiment in self-sufficient living. Walden is Thoreau's
detailed account of his stay there, what he observed and
analysed around him and how through seeking solitude he found
freedom intellectually. As Thoreau wrote: "I went to the woods
because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the
essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it
had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had
not lived." Like Anthony de Mello, Thoreau realised the
importance of awareness in life and how we should not rely on
mechanical aids to keep us awake. He asked questions such as
"Why should we live life in such hurry and waste life?" and
decided life was often frittered away by detail.

If you ever get to Boston, take the time (about 45 minutes by
car) to travel out to Concord and visit Walden Pond. Even today,
it is a beautiful idyllic spot. You can see the remains of
Thoreau's original hut and nearby a reconstruction.

See the book:

See the author:


This article - Entrepreneurs vs. Educrats: Challenging the
Status Quo of Technology in K-12 Education - by Anita Schreve
can be found on the Collaborative Strategies web site at
http://www.collaborate.com/hot_tip/tip0700.html It is Anita's
personal opinion of the role that high technology could play in
the lives of American students. She has some rather outspoken
things to say. For example:

"Traditional schools are likely to eventually be subsumed under
technology since schools are part of an antiquated system that
does not adapt well to change. New education businesses -
primarily those run for profit - will best be able to offer a
rational curriculum using the latest in instructional
technology. The state and its monies can't move fast enough, the
bureaucracy can't adapt fast enough, and the teachers can't or
won't learn the technology fast enough. The dinosaur of public
education cannot survive in a dynamic, information-rich
environment. From my perspective, the "educrats" don't even know
how badly they're being blind-sided."


"State-run and traditional schools will always hold control over
human behavior as their primary goal as long as they are within
a framework of what Alice Miller calls "poisonous pedagogy," a
denial of the dignity and selfhood of children, a demand for
unthinking obedience. It is not in the interest of the state to
produce students capable of saying "No," or asking "Why?" and it
is not an attractive career choice for people who value their
sanity to engage in socializing other people's kids. According
to the Department of Education, half of all new teachers leave
the profession within five years."

Well worth a read!

See more on Alice Miller:

See Collaborative Strategies main site:


E-learning seems to have taken off this year. There are hundreds
of sites offering e-learning technology and courses. I browsed
one or two of them recently to see if I could take a few courses
for free to evaluate the various technologies. Few sites made it
clear that this was possible and one even allowed me to fill in
a registration form before telling me I could not take the
course because I was in the UK! When I changed my address to the
US to force acceptance - I found that no free courses available
although they were offered on the home page! So I posted a
request on the UK TrainingZONE (http://www.trainingzone.co.uk)
web site. I've had two replies so far - one from blueU. They
have eight free sample courses that you can take on-line. Four
IT courses and four Business courses - including courses such as
"E-commerce Fundamentals" and "Conquering Conflict through

E-learning is certainly set to be the way that a large
proportion of our learning is going to be gained in the future.
If you have not taken an e-learning course yet then can I
suggest you visit blueU or another site and try one and discover
for yourself what it is all about.

See blueU for free courses:

See other e-learning sites:


The UK based Industrial Society recently published a report by
John Knell entitled "Most Wanted - the quiet birth of the free
worker". The report describes ‘free workers’ as the "expert
pollen of the new economy, moving quickly between jobs and
assignments, transferring ideas, skills and attitudes -
independent but not individualistic. They distrust structures
but depend on networks. They want equity but they want
excitement too."

The full report costs £20 but a good executive summary can be
downloaded from the Industrial Society's web site at:

It reminded me of my item in the second issue of this newsletter
on "Going Solo".

See Industrial Society:

See Soloing:


This month's quick clicks!

If you liked Peter Senge's book "The Fifth Discipline" and his
follow up book "The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook" then take a look
at the "The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook Project" site:

Web site on web copyright issues: http://www.benedict.com/

Anthony Robbins' web site: http://www.anthonyrobbins.com/

Wired Magazine: http://www.wired.com/

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
David Gurteen

Follow me on Twitter

How to contact me

My Blog

Gurteen Knowledge Community
The Gurteen Knowledge Community
The Gurteen Knowledge Community is a global learning community of over 21,000 people in 160 countries across the world.

The community is for people who are committed to making a difference: people who wish to share and learn from each other and who strive to see the world differently, think differently and act differently.

Membership of the Gurteen Knowledge Community is free.
Knowledge Community


request help
visitor book
Saturday 20 July 2024
12:33 AM GDT