Continuing on from my posts on the design and structure of web 2.0 tools that enable flexible ways to get things done, ie. everyone approaches things a different way, and these tools allow you to bend them to your style, further to this is in aggregate (hopefully network effects) we are able to see emerging patterns.
This post identifies two approaches to using these new tools, and how “In-the-flow” is an easier adoption method as you don’t have to do anything extra other than doing your work.
The first (Above-the-flow) is a more traditional way of sharing knowledge as a task, the second (In-the-flow), is more a way to do your work, and by default you have shared knowledge at the same time, without it having to be an explicit task.
This insight is taken from the Transparent office blog (Michael Idinopulos from SocialText), in this explanation Michael is talking about wikis, but I feel it applies to all web 2.0 tools, the crux of it is, using social tools that blend into the way you get work done, or to use social tools to cognitively/explicitly share knowledge.
From this we see that even though these new web tools are free-form and really easy to use, it doesn’t mean they will be any more successful than earlier knowledge management tools, in ultimately sharing knowledge. The defining thing is they have more of a chance to be successful as they can be integrated into your regular daily process in getting your work done.
In the end it’s a culture thing, it’s demonstrating how you use these tools to sometimes substitute the tools you currently use to get your job done, such as email. eg. use a wiki to contribute to a meeting agenda rather than 50 back and forth emails.
Anecdote mentions that culture shaping is a leadership thing…champions, role-models, guides, examples how new tools can achieve the same thing as old tools but only better, etc…I had a rant about the culture yesterday.
- a place for people to stop their daily work and reflect and share information
- this is a harder adoption method and is not unique to wiki’s, it’s the KM sharing barrier
- more a task oriented “giving back to the organisation” (similar to KM 1.0)
- this is more about a wiki for collaborating and a method for how people do work
- easier adoption using it this way as this is the chosen tool to do work
- more about “doing your job” (this is KM 2.0, where you use these new tools to do your job, and a bonus is that you happening to be sharing at the same time)
Michael concludes, “…the challenge of getting people to use above-the-flow wikis is an above-the-flow thing, not a wiki thing. Left to their own devices, people don’t collaborate very much in above-the-flow ways. That was one of the great (if depressing) learnings of the Knowledge Management movement.”
Often some of the questions to knowledge sharing are: what’s in it for me? I’m too busy? How does this contribute to getting my tasks done?
As we can see when knowledge sharing is a task or even a request, and you have clunky tools, this is the natural reaction…but it’s still the same reaction with new social tools, what has to change is the new tools have to be incorporated into your daily flow of work, rather than an extra thing you “have to do”.
NOTE: recognition from management is a good measure to sustain adoption, but things like an internal blogosphere will be self rewarding, the more people link to you, subscribe, leave comments, visit (page views), the more you will find it becomes an essential way of doing work as your being heard and a worthy and recognised contributor to the enterprise…this will spur others.
The result will be two fold:
- you will be more productive and less frustrated
- participating is not a task, in fact it’s a benefit, as you are able to draw on the collective intelligence.
In the end you are “participating” rather than “sharing knowledge”, there is a lot of personal benefit, and social benefit via the sum of everyone participating. As the culture grows you may indeed explicitly share stuff for the benefit of the network, what began as a personal benefit, with time brings out the altruistic part of a person. We get so much from the network, we thrive to give back…this all happens without a mandate, the enterprise begins to operate like a hive mind.
In a follow up post Michael sums up the difference between KM 1.0 and KM 2.0:
“In the old world of emails and knowledge management systems, our tools and processes force a rigid distinction between “doing your job” (i.e., in-the-flow activities, usually in email) and “giving back to the organization” (above-the-flow contributions to a knowledge management system). That framing of the issue ensures that people will spend almost all their time in email and very little time contributing knowledge–hence the “culture and incentives” problem that has bedeviled Knowledge Management since the very start.
What excites…me…about Enterprise 2.0 tools is that, when used well, they blur almost beyond recognition the line between in-the-flow and above-the-flow. In-the-flow wikis help teams (and sometimes even individuals) do their daily work better and faster. They simultaneously create–almost as a by-product–and enduring, searchable, assets which is tremendously useful for the rest of the organization to find experts, connect colleagues working on related issues, reuse documents, train new hires, etc.”
Dave Snowden thinks along the same lines in his discussion of blogs and social computing, he goes further into how how our brains work in favour of unstructured or messiness in contrast to the battle people had with the first generation of highly structured knowledge sharing tools:
“We live in a world where everything is fragmented. Blogs represent fragmented conversations and comments that link and connect in unpredictable and unstructured ways. When we ask people for advice we don’t receive fully constructed stories, instead we get fragments or anecdotes that we can blend and connect with out own experience.
In these worlds no one asks “How can we create a knowledge sharing culture”, knowledge sharing comes naturally. One reason is that the nature of narrative and many aspects of social computing reflect the way our brains have evolved to handle knowledge and collaboration - fragmented, messy and unstructured in many ways the antithesis of much of the focus of knowledge management over the last decade and more.”
Andrew McAfee encapsulates this nicely, via the Rough Type blog:
“…the new technologies “focus not on capturing knowledge itself, but rather on the practices and output of knowledge workers.” By providing both a platform for collaboration and a means of recording the details of the collaboration, the technologies create a public record of previously private knowledge-sharing conversations, a record that’s permanent and easily searched. Knowledge is captured, in other words, as it’s created, without requiring any additional work. As people search and use that knowledge, moreover, they refine it - through commenting, linking, syndicating and tagging, for instance - which makes it even more valuable.”
An article in Backbone magazine quotes Ross Mayfield:
“…have highly structured enterprise systems designed and implemented from the top-down — in many ways as an instrument of control — with rigid workflow, business rules and ontologies that users must fit themselves into. The problem is that users don’t like using those kinds of tools and end up trying to circumvent them. That’s why 90 per cent of collaboration exists in e-mails.” In contrast to complex group collaboration tools, wikis conform naturally to the way people think and work and can evolve to the needs of the organization.”
“The long-term evolution of the wiki will rely upon more people viewing it not as some specialist application used by IT, but as a fundamental part of their suite of everyday communication tools.”
The second quote reminds me of my reference to Nathan Wallace in an earlier post in regards to “work in progress”:
“The benefit of the wiki…is to be able to say to your company…this is what we are thinking at this moment in time. It will change and when it changes you will be told about it”
More from Ross Mayfield in a ZDnet podcast (this is not verbatim):
- Emergent social software
- Work in unstructured way like email
- The structure emerges as a byproduct of using it
- Have been designing complexity in software not realising complexity in the networks, if we make tools simpler emergent behaviours surface (collective intelligence, bubbling up, percolate)
- We have been pre-defining what structure an app should have before people use it (this is a mistake in how we design it)
- When we implement there is issues of control, we structure apps to automate business processes to drive down cost, in the end this is what everyone replicates, not a sustainable competitive advantage
- You get productivity benefits
- Further these tools change corporate culture (transparency) people who hoard are punished those who share are rewarded
- Wisdom of crowds rather than command and control
- From individual product worker to work in groups (new ROI)
- Tools that let us work together, tools that suit different styles
- People want their tools to get their job done even if it violates corporate policy
- GenerationY have different expectations of what work should be like
I’d like to add a post from the Grow your wiki blog about the benefits of participating or sharing your know-how:
“Jason called chefs the smartest business professionals. He explained this is because they are aware that you become famous and successful by giving knowledge away. For example, chefs have cooking shows and write cook books. Yet it doesn’t stop their restaurants from being successful. In fact, he claimed they are probably more successful because of their sharing.”
“Enterprise 2.0 provides a competitive advantage because it is so hard to do, so hard to get adoption.”
[ADDED 13/03/08: What is a wiki:
“If you need to move off of the wiki to finish what you’re working on, that’s good too: yes, a wiki is good for collaboration, but it’s more important to have a shared memory than a shared workspace”]