NOTE: km 2.0 is refering to moreso the personal knowledge sharing aspects of knowledge management…these social tools used to share information are also retainers of information.
Communities of Practice (CoPs) are a great idea for experts to come together and exchange (share/transfer) knowledge.
If you are interested in something, what better than to mingle with like minded people, to share and learn and become topic experts…also engage and motivate visitors, a rather organic effect.
In the end also all this getting together results in a topic hub website or database that has been derived from the social capital of the people (give a person an enabling tool and they will run with it…give me a bike and I’ll ride)…basically nurturing and retaining a corporate memory.
But…as long as this enabling tool serves its purpose, some workflow tools don’t allow for exceptions to the rule, some information that could be shared isn’t, as the system doesn’t allow for it.
NOTE: CoPs are hard work, you need dedicated members and roles, if discussion and news headlines wane, that is, content is scarce, this means members are not being communal or interested or dedicating time, therefore the community and its website begins to die, and visitors will change the channel.
CoP as an enabler of knowledge exchange, retention, innovation and expertise is great, but what if me, the knowledge worker, wants to share some insight but I can’t find a topic community to publish these thoughts.
eg. if I joined a CoP about alternate energy, but I came across an article or had an idea about staff inductions, I have no place to publish this, I have to find a CoP for it, which may not exist. I guess what I’m saying is that CoPs are great, but social networks and blogs are essential to capture/share any kind of knowledge.
Let me explain….
Electronic Document Management Systems (EDMS) are great to store stuff and document control and revision, but when it comes to sharing personal knowledge they are not the right kind of enabler.
CoPs instead have experts, discussion tools, document libraries, etc…kind of like a portion of a EDMS in context, plus discussion, a place to hang out, putting some faces to a bunch of folders in a filing cabinet and those folders having conversations.
So far I think an EDMS and CoPs have their place and purpose as they are great at performing a specific function, but when it comes to sharing personal insights and thoughts they are not the one size fits all enabler.
This is when personal social web tools come into the equation, stuff like; bookmarks, podcasts, wikis, and blogs…especially blogs.
If I’m sitting in the train and have a great thought or idea that I want to share with the enterprise as it could change direction for the better or augment processes, etc…or simply I need to get it out there in order to develop the idea with some discussion, how will I publish this information?
I simply launch my blog and post it, other knowledge workers are subscribed to my blog and read my thoughts and perhaps leave comments or post reactions in their own blogs.
It’s as simple as that, blogs are the great personal knowledge sharing enabler.
Why are blogs more enabling than EDMS or CoPs when it comes to personal knowledge?
CoPs are good, but back to our initial issue, what if a CoP doesn’t exist for the type of information I want to share…CoPs are more based around a set topic.
CoPs main tools are a document library and a forum, what if I just want to announce something, or share something that doesn’t require discussion, a forum doesn’t feel like the right enabler for this, perhaps a document is better.
Another thing is I don’t always own my information, it sometimes has to be OK’d by moderators, there may be peer pressure or anxiety (scared to share for what people will think), I don’t always have my own user space (new group sites like and Clearspace have user spaces), narrow insight due to narrow breadth of members (and dare I say something counter to what we have always been about, I don’t want to be a rogue), members can feel left out, others have to deal with annoying members, etc…
Even if you find the right CoP to share your thoughts, who is going to see your post…basically CoP members and visitors.
This is good, but what if the CoP is young or isn’t thriving, not many people will see your post, what if you want cross disciplinary/business unit people to see your post, chances are they won’t as they are members of another CoP.
Let’s not even talk about sharing personal information and thoughts (supposed tacit knowledge) in an EDMS.
Firstly you have to write a word document or text document, then add metadata when you add it to the EDMS, but where are you adding it, which folder, which section, and who knows it will be there (an EDMS isn’t a place like a CoP, it’s a filing cabinet) is anyone notified or do they subscribe to this folder.
It just doesn’t compare for personal knowledge sharing: too cumbersome to add, don’t have your own space (website), findability, notification, etc…
- word document vs blog post
- folders vs categories
- higher level folder vs a blog
- EDMS vs a blogosphere
I guess I’ve explained what makes a blog so great in sharing personal type of information, by explaining what lacks in CoPs and an EDMS.
- effortless to share information
- no matter what context or topic, your blog is the right tool
- it’s your own soapbox, say what you want
- more chance for your post to be seen by cross disciplinary/business unit people
- more chance for conversation with cross disciplinary/business unit people
- distributed conversation (comments, trackbacks)
- your stuff is visible to a blogosphere rather than just a topic website or orphaned folder
- posts can be thoughts, announcements, don’t have to be discussions
- personal benefit rather than a group cause (but others will still see what you say)
- easy to subscribe and be notified
- don’t hesitate what to say because of peers
- easy to change your mission as you grow as a person (CoPs need consensus)
Most of all you are the author, the blog entirely represents you…personal satisfaction.
Not only that, but there has to be something in it for people personally to share their know-how or nuggets of information, and if they know their published pieces are popular (highly visited) or talked about (discussed), there is a sense of satisfaction, reward (reputation), belonging, without having to resort to incentives and rewards to influence people to share knowledge.
Since blogs have comments, and forums have discussions threads, a knowledge object such as a blog post can be discussed and become something more valuable.
In contrast adding an email or word document to a folder in an EDMS becomes static information, there is no space to enrichen the content. And of course I’m talking about documents where the content is about anecdotes, tips, experiences…knowledge sharing type of content.
NOTE: Forums and blogs will hopefully drive people out of email discussions, into more of an open way to have discussions.
[ADDED 10/10/07: Anecdote have a great paper, Using content to create connections among people, about using blogs to keep workers across divisions up-to-date on what happening in the office and in the field.
It really hones in on the benefits of knowledge sharing with blogs as opposed to putting a document in a database, and the shorter time it takes to find information, due to you being aware of having more of an idea where to find this information as you grow with these blogs everyday…these blogs may point to gems in the Document Management System (DMS), so they are a quality filter as well.
Plus, reading blogs makes you aware of people, rather than faceless DMS’s or as opposed to documents, if you are aware a person is an expert in one topic (as you read their blog daily), it may be worth asking if they can be of assistance on a closely related topic, or they could point you in the right direction…all these connections is said to make a more agile workplace. By connecting with the person and discussing you may get an answer that may not of existed in a document or blog post, the important part is to know who to ask rather than searching and searching…Anecdote call this process “social indexing”.
Here is an excerpt:
“…avoid accessing complicated databases-it wastes large amounts of…time…Rather, this approach relies on their becoming aware of what is happening through a simple application interface which is much like reading the newspaper each morning…”]
Another unique feature is that blogs are an unstructured format, this makes way for emergent patterns to form and be noticed, due to the free form nature of the platform, Andrew McAfee says it succinctly:
“Emergent means that the software is freeform, and that it contains mechanisms to let the patterns and structure inherent in people’s interactions become visible over time.”
“…technology platforms that are initially freeform (meaning that they don’t specify up front roles, identities, workflows, or interdependencies) and eventually emergent (meaning that they come over time to contain patterns and structure that can be exploited by their members). I continue to see these as the key points of differentiation between E2.0 technologies and previous corporate collaboration and communication tools. Email is a channel, not a platform; groupware is not freeform and typically not emergent; and knowledge management systems were essentially the opposite of freeform — they presupposed the structure of the knowledge they were meant to capture.”
I see documents or wikis as a more formal type of format where you may take time to distill the cream of blog and forum discussions and add it to your document library in the CoP, or add it to your EDMS and link to it from the CoP, or as a FAQ in the CoP, etc…
Whether it’s personal blogs or open group blogs, there is a lot to benefit using the correct enabler to share personal knowledge.
New comers can read up on the blogosphere and get a feel for the enterprise culture, they can immediately connect and be heard, have a presence.
New comers can subscribe to an OPML Reading List of their project blogs or business unit blogs and be in the loop for past and future information they need to be aware of…beats email.
Now the mail room guy could have a say, their post could be picked up in the enterprise blogosphere and be acknowledged as a new innnovation…would they of otherwise been heard or would their content be seen if it was in an EDMS or by the right people if it was in a CoP…and it’s surely not netiquette or allowable to email an idea to the whole office.
Anyway, this is how I think business operations, communications, collaboration, processes and decisions can be more transparent, there is a lot to learn and harness from the social capital.
There’s all this talk of customer feedback to make the product better in order to serve the customer, why would this be any different internally?
Managers no longer have to think of everything for the benefit (??) of everyone, now we can all contribute our ideas to the workplace and have a more democratic and open environment.
Of course there is a place for managers and only managers or the board to make decisions, but if the mail room guy had a better idea about distributing the mail and blogged it, it may fall on deaf ears from his manager, but another manager may have seen the post and agree and overrule…blog and be heard.
I won’t go into social bookmarks, but annotated links have a similar value to blogs when it comes to posting and sharing information…then we have podcasts, video, etc…
So far we have just talked about blogs, what about wikis for extremely easy sharing of personal knowledge. They are open to all, create your own usable and updated intranet for your team, or to share documentation or to share tips and tricks or a troubleshoot cheat sheet or a topic gateway to a bunch of links that live in the EDMS, or to brainstorm and so on… Also save back and forth emails, just change the wiki (eg. meeting agenda) and others will get an email or RSS notification. For more check out wikinomics and wikipatterns.
A lot of the time a wiki is handy to document exceptions to the rule eg. when we deal with this client, do this and this, when this happens this is the workaround…not all workflow systems cater for every situation or process, so a tool (document/website) everyone can contribute to and share (always current) is very helpful.
Then we have social networks, which are a more of a connecter and expert locator, actually they are a connected blogosphere and email, etc…
Social networks are just going one step further, instead of subscribing to blogs, we are hooking up with people, it’s a two way thing.
Sure I can subscribe to a blog and leave a comment or trackback, but that’s it…what if I could subscribe to that person, not only can I read their content and discuss, but within the same dashboard I can IM, private message, comment wall, see their connections, etc…from a fan to a relationship.
Since social networks require a profile page and you can tag your own interests, they double up as an expert locator…find experts by how they describe themselves, then check out their profile to see projects they have been on, forum and blog posts, CoP membership, etc…
Even if we didn’t have people tags, a search on the enterprise blogosphere or social network will turn up content from which leads back to people.
Another thing about social networks, is visiting your friends profiles and seeing who their friends are, basically discovery via your network, in contrast to just blind discovery which may also have it’s place (just not in the context of you and your social graph)
Facebook has some great social graph tools eg. Socialistics, TouchGraph and 6 degrees.
This leads to the notion of groupings, ie. slicing data into different aggregated views eg. show me all blog posts from people in business unit A, show me all blog posts from people located in office A, show me all blog posts from people in business unit A and B with the tags A, B or C, etc…
For now try an effective tool like Ning, it’s a social network that has a blog space and forums, so here you could have a CoP that has a social network in it, this way you can use the traditional forum, but you also have your own soapbox.
I like bringing groups or CoP together in the same environment as a social network, Facebook does this, but it doesn’t come together.
As I’ve mentioned before, and I hope Clearspace takes this on, I’d like to have my owner user space (profile), blog, etc… within the enterprise social network.
I’d also like to belong to a CoP or various member group sites, these CoPs have a document library, forums, but also their own social network, meaning every member has their own blog within this CoP.
When I post to my personal blog space, I’d like to be able to choose if I want to send it to any of my CoP blogs.
When someone visits my general profile, I’d like a section of my activity on each CoP I am a member of eg. forum posts and replies by me, and latest blog posts by me
Something else I’d like is a section on my profile for comments I’ve left on general blogs, and comments I’ve left on CoP blogs.
[ADDED: Dave Snowden has posted a really relevant point to how social networks and following people is very important:
“Its critical to realise that no one will refuse people knowledge in the context of real need, but few if any people will publish what they know in anticipation of need. That means that it is more important to focus on the channels through which knowledge flows than on the knowledge itself. That means linking and connecting people and there are a range of techniques of which SNS is the Rolls Royce It’s also true that using social computing in the way I advocated above will hugely increase the connectivity and the ability of the network to create a resilience and responsive mechanism for distributing knowledge.”
He also has a podcast, which I can’t wait to listen to…seems really related to this post…on social computing km approaches in comparison to older km approaches like CoP.]
[ADDED 29/29/07: The strength of weak ties: “…strong ties may breed local cohesion”]
[ADDED 29/29/07: Connecting and collecting: “Connection, not collection: That’s the essence of knowledge management. The purpose of projects, therefore, is to get knowledge moving, not to freeze it; to
distribute it, not to shelve it.”]
[ADDED 29/29/07: CoP Leadership - A Lesson from the Flight of Pelicans: “…a successful CoP gone bad through exclusivism […] one of the causes that led to the dysfunctionality of the CoP was the lack of a leadership renewal process…”]
[ADDED 02/10/07: The ties that find:
“Companies that rely heavily on innovation have always spent a great deal of time, money, and effort on ways to help knowledge workers interact better with their close colleagues. These companies obsess about office and lab layouts, trying to ensure that people flow past each other often and feel drawn to common work areas. They assemble cross-functional teams and try to make sure that these groups have enough of the right kinds of diversity…
Granovetters’ great insight in SWT and later work was that these activities help strengthen already strong ties, but that weak ties might actually be the more important ones for innovation and knowledge sharing. Strong ties and weak ties are exactly what they sound like. Strong ties between people arise from long-term, frequent, and sustained interactions; weak ties from infrequent and more casual ones. The ‘problem’ with strong ties is that if persons A and B have a strong tie, they’re also likely to be strongly tied to all members of each other’s networks. In other words, there’s likely to be a lot of overlap in their friendship circles.
This might be a good thing in many ways, but it’s bad news if A needs a piece of knowledge that she can’t find inside her own friendship circle. Because of the overlap, B’s circle is likely to be redundant with A’s, and so unhelpful to her. In other words, her tie to B does her little good in her search for knowledge. If A and C have a weak tie, however, many of C’s friends are likely to be strangers to A, and so are good resources as she looks to inform herself.
The implication for SNS is obvious: Facebook and its peers should be highly valuable for businesses because they’re tools for increasing the density of weak ties within a company, as well as outside it. My Facebook friends are a large group of people from diverse backgrounds who have very little in common with each other.Furthermore, their profiles give me a decent way to evaluate their expertise. These online friends, in other words, are a large group of bridges to other networks.”
…these activities…seem like they’d be highly valuable within a company, especially a large and/or geographically distributed one where you can’t access all colleagues just by bumping into them in the hallway.”
[ADDED 03/10/07: Weak Ties for Social Problem Solving in Enterprise 2.0:
“When an employee is faced with a complex, ambiguous, and uncertain problem and she doesn’t have enough information or other resources to solve it on her own, how does she find and marshal what she needs? She may search through her network, either the hierarchy or her informal social network.
Using the hierarchy, she might just ask her manager (moving up) or her colleagues (laterally) or subordinates (down). Then her manager or her subordinates or her colleagues might get involved, navigating their relationships on the hierarchy. This can become time and communications-intensive, because the person or people who can solve the problem might be far away if all you can use is the organizational hierarchy.
An informal social network includes ties that cut across the formal hierarchy and thus offer shortcut information finding and problem solving. If the employee has a way of searching across these ties, she might be more successful in a shorter time.”
[ADDED 8/10/07: Harnessing the Power of Informal Social Networks:
“As we studied these social and informal networks, we made a surprising discovery: how much information and knowledge flows through them and how little through official hierarchical and matrix structures […] we concluded that the formal structures of companies, as manifested in their organisational charts, don’t explain how most of their real day-to-day work gets done.”
“Personal social networks, both within and outside of companies, increase the value of collaboration by reducing the search coordination costs of connecting parties who have related knowledge and interests.”
[ADDED 9/10/07: Immersed in the ‘Internet Human Buzz’:
“…benefits, like access to all the world’s information. But the links that matter aren’t between pages but people…”
“From a workplace perspective, this is the gist of what has been called the “personal outsourcing” phenomenon. When we turn to others for information, or to collaborate and share, we call upon a community of associates or experts that spans the entire global, versus simply running to an associate that has an office down the hall. “]
[ADDED 29/10/07: What is your conversation strategy?:
“The essence I am trying to get to is that we are looking for the context around information that exists in our many “knowledge repositories” in order to distil the knowledge that exists. To do that means that we must connect, and the easiest way to do so is through conversation”
[ADDED 07/11/07: How to hit the enterprise 2.0 bullseye:
“But the intersection of ties and Enterprise 2.0 technologies goes much farther than this. In fact, ties provide a great base for understanding the benefits provided by many E2.0 technologies, and for understanding when each one should be deployed. Thinking in terms of ties, in other words, let managers select from among the grabbag of available technologies and also anticipate the benefits they’ll get after successful deployment.”
[ADDED 08/11/07: Social tools for Internal Communications:
“We need to make people less dependent upon email and sequential task processing and instead cultivate more autonomous behaviours, where individuals use their social networks to filter useful information and then carve out the time and the space in which to collaborate around actionable information and signals.
….quite revolutionary to people working in the lonely silos that an email+documents methodology creates. We call it social filtering. It has become almost a cliche that in networks of bloggers, useful information begins to find you rather than the other way around. I subscribe to 300+ individual feeds/sources on a daily basis, and this network of bloggers, writers, companies, academics and publications is my primary social filter for actionable market intelligence. If something important happens in my field in the morning, I can pretty much rely on the fact that I will have multiple analyses and thought-pieces about its implications by the afternoon. This is what we mean when we talk about social newsreading.
The resulting social signals about what is important would be incredibly useful to the organisation as a whole, and would provide a far greater return for the overall investment of time and attention than unconnected reading and research.
For me, as I have mentioned before, this is moving us towards actionable collective intelligence for perhaps the first time; and I find that very exciting indeed.”
In another post I’d like to have a look at adoption, culture, ROI, etc…
Instead of sending an email
Internal communication blogs and km2.0
Motorola and km 2.0
km 2.0 and organic km
KM 2.0 momentum
Project Management Blogs - How to Run Your Project on the Web
Seven Reasons for Your Company to Start an Internal Blog
Blogs are knowledge management tools
How to use Blogs in the Workplace
[ADDED 29/11/07: Knowledge sharing in the new KM]