My recent post on knowledge sharing in the new organic KM talked about the impact of social computing in the enterprise. This new enterprise model differs to current knowledge capture models, especially in the effectiveness of transferring or diffusing knowledge successfully. The new model isn’t necessarily tied to KM and isn’t explicitly seen as knowledge sharing, it’s just basic social computing like blogging and networking, the important concept is that it is an ecology for knowledge flow.
Many of us, especially Luis Suarez, have been posting about the benefits of social computing on the open web and how they could be applied to the enterprise with the same success.
The main premise is the “come to me web” (via the new read/write and subscription phenomena), which sounds a lot like the idea of “knowledge flow” to me.
What has given this some recent traction are the writings and keynotes by Dave Snowden. He is not just talking highly of social computing, but has been identifying since the mid to late ’90’s the deficiency in the KM model and culture.
We are people and not widgets, so rather than applying manufacturing processes to deal with knowledge distribution, the answer has come to learn more about human nature and apply principles from disciplines like the natural sciences and anthropology.
As a result we have come to learn that the old KM processes (and tools) are not human friendly, and not in synch with our cognitive process (how we operate).
A few papers by Dave Snowden from the late ninties draw on new methods of codification such as narrative, and new processes of mapping and audits such as the ASCHEN model, “…helping organisations identify what they know and to move directly to action as a result of the meaning provided by the framework”.
Since then “web 2.0″ has fallen into our lap, and the nature of it’s ecology and tools fit in perfectly with the evolved concept of organic KM.
This post is not trying to encompass the whole gamut of the new KM, but moreso a different approach to; capture, transfer, share, and diffuse knowledge. This is in contrast with previous methods such as codification, which may be OK for some information, but is not effective in extracting tacit knowledge, which is seen to be the most valuable, as it’s how we actually get things done using our know-how.
A brilliant paper by Anecdote captures the essence of the tacit concept (this paper is in the context of Communities of Practice CoP).
“The problem is that much of this ‘know how’ is not amenable to this [codification] treatment. It cannot be captured or converted easily. Much of it is unspoken and unrecorded.”
“…knowledge provides the only sustainable market differentiator”…tacit knowledge makes up a substantial portion of this vital knowledge-perhaps as much as 80%.”
“Tacit knowledge is personal knowledge. It is difficult to discern and difficult to express” (intuition, hunches, heuristics, talent, etc…)
“It is not ‘book knowledge’; rather, it is knowledge developed through experience”
Three types of tacit knowledge are identified:
1. stuff people understand, but take for granted
2. stuff nobody understands
3. stuff that is hard to explain or articulate (even though you understand it)
The paper identifies CoP’s as a way to manage tacit knowledge; groups share experiences, share a context (common ground), reflect, ask questions, listen…all these are ways that elicit and nuture personal know-how.
CoP’s essentially are not about achieving an outcome, they are about sharing and discussing for the sake of it…well, a common interest.
Later on you may find yourself with the aptitude to perform or apply a skill to a task even though you aren’t officially qualified (didn’t read the manual or take the course), reason being is that you may have internalised your CoP sessions, the group know-how has become a part of you. This is very organic, as you don’t even notice that you became proficient, plus these skills could apply elsewhere.
Before I start on my never ending rant, I’ll re-publish some heuristics from my last post:
1. Knowledge can only be volunteered, it can never be conscripted
2. We only know what we know when we need to know it
3. We always know more than we can tell and we will always tell more than we can write down
1. If people need knowledge in the “context” of need it will always be shared
2. People don’t share knowledge in the anticipation that you need it
Here I go…
Traditional KM is making sure (even mandating) tacit knowledge is codified, then when you need to do something you go find content to see if anyone has done it before, or their thoughts on the matter.
The two problems identified were findability and usablility:
- having search skills, and being able to sort the relevant documents frmo the rest (this may be time intensive)
- is codified information useful without the knowledge holder present to help explain the context
- have they forgotten things to document at the time of codification
- what is the quality of seizing the moment and experience, it’s hard to get a feeling across when it’s passed (codification is often done in hindsight, it’s not a as it happens thing).
The new model presents an informal network connected model based on knowledge being about conversations rather than content.
Firstly you connect to people in an informal network, this already has something over the old model in many ways; and has proven itself on the open web.
1. effortless to share “thoughts” and “what’s in your head” (you normally wouldn’t share stuff with clunky tools)
2. the fact that you do share thoughts as they happen in a fragmented way, rather than an overall document later on (which may include some notes you scratched on a piece of paper, but you may not even remember what these notes mean)
3. you get your own profile, you can become an expert website ( a goto place)
4. live discussion…people leave comments and posts linking to you, as opposed to static codified documents (which never have the opportunity to grow and evolve)
You are publishing what you learn and thoughts, even sometimes questions; to help you through your day (notes, insights, feedback), this is raw and anecdotal stuff…this is a record of stuff you may have forgotten, if not published.
The bonus is this provides value to not just you, but also others (whether they are connected to you, or find your content via a search). It’s a two way thing, you publish and you read from others…discussion may add value to what you published which is beneficial for all, this is working the social capital.
You express your notes close to the time stuff happened, and it’s not an overview (a paragraph in a structured report), it’s raw and each moment is it’s own thing.
Codification is usually a structured report, from hindsight trying to encompass all that you know, it’s less about clear experiences, and more about delivering on a planned outcome…the experiences may be included, but they are not focused on.
Whereas shared fragments are just that, you are sharing an anecdote for the sake of sharing it, in codification if they are included, they are just a glance, the body of the document is more explaining how you delivered what was planned.
Codified documents are very contextual, and all encompassing, whereas blogs are smaller fragments and alive with conversation…of which later on may be distilled into a document or a wiki.
Perhaps documents should be tagged with blog posts that talk about them, these posts can sometimes be published before the document, so they act as information around the document, extra context and value that the structured document may not offer…as its purpose and content, as mentioned, is about achieving a deliverable outcome.
When I say deliverable outcome, this is not just project reports, and what happened on projects, it could also be “please deliver a report on what you learnt, share your knowledge of how you did things on this project”…I guess this is a best practice or lessons learnt.
This is a classic codification request…I’d say to my boss, “just read my last 2 months of blog posts, view the tag cloud and get an idea of what’s on my mind, what happened, etc…”
Tag clouds deliver so much insight, from the weight of a tag in a cloud, you can get an idea of a situation without reading any content.
A. read a report of the project
B. read a document of what I learnt (written at the end of the project)
C. fill in a questionnaire/interviews
D. share experiences and anecdotes in a circle
E. you hear anecdotes in the coffee room (during or long after the event)
F. you were present on the project observing and learning
G. you read blog posts actually about anecdotes and experiences (close to the event), these are not part of a bigger document, the blog post or fragment is not trying to achieve something based on an outcome, there is no directive, it’s just plain and simple sharing a story for no particular reason other than socialising
If you are asking what’s the use of doing this if it’s for no purpose (I don’t have time to waste on stuff that doesn’t contribute to a task) , well that’s the point, when there is no purpose, you share a true essence of something, just like you do when you chat in the coffee room.
Later these stories can be scanned for patterns and we can weave together what’s happening instead of reading a report telling us what happened
The data and tag cloud is available for all to interpret. The data could trigger different things to people, it would reveal things not covered in a report…so it is a great supplement to a codified report, if not the other way around.
A codified report will lead you down an intended path, whereas a visual tag cloud of stories may stimulate your brain onto unintended paths…this is a more organic, more an ecology than a machine.
I’m not saying formal reports are of no use, rather a formal document on “tell me what you learnt”, compared to blogs and informal networks sharing fragments as they happen.
What would be great to see is a codified document on what people learnt and compare it do a tag cloud of blog fragments (not what we learnt, but what we experienced, stuff that happened).
What would help a person looking for information, or what would they rather be bothered reading, a codified best practice, or scan a tag cloud of blog fragments.
The blog fragments are not necessarily trying too hard to tell you what was learnt and why it’s good, instead you form an idea your self when reading this stuff in aggregate.
5. you are connecting to people (having conversation with a person, rather than looking for a document to read…plus that person can point you to a good document, so they are a filter as well as a source of unique information)
- the higher the abstraction (people on common ground, people who know each other), the more the shared context.
6. sometimes you already know where to look as you are updated daily of information in your network. You may have a task to look for any work already done (or supplementary work) on a topic like, “solar panels”. Instead of searching documents, you may already know someone in your network, perhaps a weak tie that is an expert as you read their stuff everyday…or they could point you to one of their connections.
Here we have a system that is not explicitly sharing stuff, it is just publishing stuff, and you choose to subscribe, or tune in to people, so you are reading stuff everyday, just like the news (only filtered through people you trust).
On the open web we no longer leave the trust factor in the hands of a publishing house, newspaper or broadcaster…we are getting news filtered through our social trust network.
The beauty of this is that an expert on “solar panels” shares their insights that are gold to you, and this happened before you even needed this stuff…they didn’t anticipate you would need this information, they didn’t necessarily publish this information because it was part of a deliverable, they just did what we do every day, have thoughts, insights, read news, and talk about it or perhaps just think about. Well what a blog and network does is try to get this written, discussed and connect you to the people that matter to you.
All this tacit stuff is available for the world at large, an unexpressed idea may be an opportunity lost.
NOTE: I often have an idea and start blogging, and the stream of consciousness starts flowing, unintended stuff pours out, (it’s not just the stuff in my head, it’s the articulation), tha path manifests itself, this is not just pure tacit knowledge, it’s knowledge in the making.
Anecdote has a white paper on people and connections with RSS and blogs, they mention the ease of publishing content and being updated with stuff that’s happening (in the loop).
An even greater value is that you get to know a person via their blog and you may decide to ask them a question on something they haven’t blogged about specifically, but you know they may be of assistance as they have blogged about experiences in this topic area.
This is similar to reading blog posts or speaking to someone on issues that relate to a document, stuff that happened that doesn’t come across in the document.
Here’s an excerpt from the paper:
“…a salesman might need to know whether a product can be implemented in a specific configuration. If he has noticed that Kelly has often mentioned this product in her blogs, but has never said anything about configurations, the salesman can call Kelly and ask her about his requirement. The real power of this solution is generated when Kelly responds to his enquiry by asking him questions—so a more relevant answer or a better contact can be provided. In fact, Kelly might also provide a direct link to a document directly relevant to the salesman’s need. We could call this process, ‘social indexing’.”
“The value of this approach can be appreciated if it is contrasted with a typical best-practice database. A salesperson who searches the knowledge base will identify either nothing or a huge number of documents. Most of them […] with no meaningful context; […] or perhaps 30-page reports that the salesperson has neither the time nor inclination to read. Faced with this mountain of useless information, the salesperson is likely to ‘wing-it’…”
In the case that your strong ties and weak ties are not experts on the topic you are looking for, maybe their connections are, or perhaps you can search the internal blogs tags or people tags.
We have all these benefits, but the main one is that there is a profile for each person, you can discover people by tags, by their content.
At the moment we can’t discover people or even connect with people…IM and email do nothing for discovery and social capital.
Communities of Practice (CoPs) are a good step, but they are not individual centric, we need an online version of the individual in different environments…me in the meeting room, me in the coffee room, me in the hallway…where I converse with people.
Blogs distill the chats and keep it going, and the network is a global online way of bumping into people, even better, profile pages are like we are wearing a name tag with our interests and an archive of everything I’ve ever said and worked on.
7. informal sharing enables you the confidence to discuss stuff with people you trust…this is nothing new as email does this, only now we have the right tools for the right job.
8. you can explicitly share links…this is nothing new as email does this, only now we have the right tools for the right job.
9. communicate via public/private messages, ask questions, etc…this is nothing new as email does this, only now we have the right tools for the right job.
10. recommended stuff from your social graph, and serendipity via browsing tags and profiles
11. self rewarding as people connect to you, you become an expert based on your content and the buzz around you.
You don’t need a direct monetary reward for the sharing itself, this is self rewarding as you may get a reputation (comments, links, etc…feel worthy and something to say).
The monetary reward may be a result from the impact of your knowledge publishing…your publishing may have led to a discussion, all this in vein of having interest in your industry. Six months later this re-emerges or a manager has a task that already seems to be answered from the discussion six months ago. They would say thank god we have tools and the attitude so people can socialise and document current things on their mind and reaction to others and the news.
12. cross-disciplinary networking and all people having an outlet may lead to innovation (all can be heard)
13. emergent patterns (self organising, self assembling)
14. transparency in decision making and innovation
15. autonomous behaviours…more on this in a future post.