This post is a continuation from the thought on the two types of macro ways social tools can be used in the enterprise. My other posts are Collaboration, Emergence and Culture, and Free-form structure and In-the-Flow process can lead to more.
Using social tools is making contributions more: transparent, centralised, visible, smoother collaboration, inventive, re-usable, offers inbox relief, and the obvious…emergence.
In-the-Flow refers to “Directed” contribution
eg. wiki for a meeting agenda/minutes, blog or announcements or news.
Anything you do that is part of your functional duties.
You are sometimes substituting these social tools over traditional tools like email.
As mentioned in an earlier post by the Transparent Office, you don’t need a collaborative culture to adopt In-the-Flow contributions, as you are not doing anything extra, you are still getting your task done, but just using a new tool or two.
It concluded that when it comes to “collaboration” (not to be confused with emergence), culture is a destination, not a starting point.
This is not “knowledge sharing”, it’s just using the right tool for the job, see more.
And it’s not just “collaboration” eg. using a blog for project announcements rather than email is not collaboration…it’s a directed In-the-Flow use of social tools.
What it is…is more “knowledge visible”; others can come across this information as it’s more open and not siloed.
This is not extracting anymore tacit know-how than before when email was the main tool to get things done…but indeed it may be, as visibility provides exposure of content to more people, rather than just the people in the email to: field. In turn someone may decide to contribute some insight.
People from all over the enterprise (permissions considered) can come across these social objects, and can read what’s happening (like reading the news), or even leave a comment.
This visibility has created the opportunity for someone to actually volunteer some shared insight…this is “knowledge sharing”, or it could be “learning” if the nature of the comment is a clarification or question. A subsequent clarification by the originator could be “sharing know-how”, and this exchange may evolve into new content.
All this demonstrates that “conversation” is where all the gold lives, actually where all the gold is made.
Here’s a quote to remember from Jon Husband (very Snowdenesque):
“how to create a knowledge sharing culture?,” is not the right question. It’s more important to ask and understand “what you can do to encourage and facilitate connections?”
Above-the-Flow refers to “Volunteered” contribution
eg. a wiki glossary, blogging ideas, experiences, work in progress, insights, opinions, reviews, thinking out loud.
Any sharing that is not really contributing to your functional duties…ie without doing it you can still do your job.
Sure it may help (social productivity) with you and your teams functional duties by having a wikipage that lists links to pages you regularly visit, but this isn’t essential to get your task done. This is in the realm of personal knowledge management (PKM), but extending PKM in a more visible and social way.
This is closer to the concept of “knowledge sharing” as it’s volunteered, you are taking time away from your job, to contribute your know-how in general.
But sometimes it’s very closely related to your job, you may contribute some of your personal know-how in a blog for personal reasons; so you don’t forget what you know…like keeping notes.
If this content is visible, others can benefit from your personal notes, and in turn you can benefit from an insightful comment, and a visitor can benefit just by reading it…all about leveraging social capital.
Is this type of Above-the-Flow contribution, precisely “knowledge sharing?”…I think it’s just “participation” and “visibility”.
“Knowledge sharing” has a connotation of effort, something extra, whereas “participating” feels more like “being”, it’s just what you do…you learn by participating.
Does public or open equal sharing, or is sharing a more altrustic thing?
I think it’s a bit of both.
When you blog post about an idea, experience, work in progress, this again may be a personal diary, but at the same time you are making it public on purpose, as you welcome any reaction that may reafirm, evolve, clarify your content…I do think this is “knowledge sharing”, but perhaps “participating” is a better description.
More pure sharing is when you publish a review, opinion, latest rumour/news/links…this again becomes an entry in your personal database (blog) for future reference, but the purpose of publishing is more to inform others and to provoke reaction and discussion.
An even more pure form is when you find something that is of no interest to you, and send it to someone else…this type of thing still happens in email.
Sure people can tune into my social bookmarks, but I may not want to bookmark something that I know about, but still want to pass it on to you.
I’m certainly not going to blog about it, because the blog is about me, so I could send it to your public wall profile so others may see it as well, but perhaps even better I could send it to your social bookmarks inbox, as this inbox is the right context for web links.
In-the-Flow to In-the-Flow
Due to visibility, a visitor can come across a piece of In-the-Flow contributed content to perhaps use as their own In-the-Flow contribution. What you have found out elsewhere may help you with your task. You may post to your team about a lead, an innovation, a way to cut costs that came to your attention.
In-the-Flow to Above-the-Flow
An In-the-Flow contribution may lead to an Above-the-Flow contribution, like leaving a comment or a volunteered blog post (even though it’s not their task, they are just being social and helpful).
This model is dynamic, as long as content is visible, it allows conversation to happen at any moment…people are participating in public rather than in closed email sets.
Above-the-Flow to Above-the-Flow
I could volunteer a blog post about a client in the news, and someone else could volunteer a comment or publish their own blog post, there could be great discussion…this is all Above-the-Flow.
Above-the-Flow to In-the-Flow
If I blog about my current reflections (understanding/what I’m learning) about a work in progress, I may get feedback that helps me get my task or deliverable done better, perhaps less time and cost…not to mention I have been educated…and why, all because I participate.
Or I could come across a volunteered blog post about a client, and that Above-the-Flow contribution could be just the information I need to complete my job, so I blog post an announcement to my team (In-the-Flow).
As mentioned at the start of this post, In-the-Flow adoption is easier, what is harder is the Above-the-Flow volunteered contributions, as these are not neccessary to get your job done.
But still if you experience such an ecosystem, you will see that it indeed helps you get your job done, more than ever before.
- you can read what others publish for new insight
- if you publish others can help you out
The more you get benefit from reading volunteered contributions the more chance you may want to participate more seriously and start publishing. Plus conversations are infectious, and social creatures like us will take to tools that can be an extension of your voice box.
The main drive is to get those pioneering Above-the-Flow participants, to kick things off, and hopefully all else will follow.
This is not an adoption post, but the main kicker is for champions to just go at it, and serve as a role model, and generate examples of successes, as well as getting senior people involved…a lot is about change management.
The benefit we do have is, In-the-Flow to Above-the-Flow…hopefully it can be seen that the same new tools that we will be using for directed contributions are also handy to express whatever you want, and to have conversations about general work stuff.
The “work in progress” magic
Earlier on I mentioned, “work in progress”, meaning: “what I’m currently up to”, “the current state of things”, “my musings or understanding”, “what I just learnt along the way.”
As you can see “work in progress” is a vague term, and I think in another perspective you could see it also as, In-the-Flow, as it could be a substitute for some meetings, or the progress (status) email you send your boss/colleagues.
The part that is Above-the-Flow is not really about progress per se, but more about what you are exploring, your research thoughts, anything you find interesting (don’t want to have to wait to read the final report), anything interesting about your process, research methods, etc…
“Work in progress” is a great term that may blur the line between In-the-Flow and Above-the-Flow. What it means is that the more In-the-Flow contributions are more (Above-the-Flow) characteristic to casual and intimate know-how, the more chance this will spur volunteered contributions.
So maybe we could stress “work in progress” blogging and using wikis for collaborative constructing documents before they become formal deliverables, as a prime method to get your work done more productively, and also in extracting tacit knowledge…and creating conditions for conversation-leading to emergence, and ultimately innovation.
It’s not just wikis and blogs, in the end of a recent post I mentioned that the micro-blogging format is closer to expressing tacit know-how and conversations, which is what KM has always been about.
This excerpt about “conversation”, from Matthew Hodgson on the AppGap blog, sums it up in respect to how social tools can create a conversational environment, which is where the know-how lives and is exchanged:
“Many vendors in the 90s touted their products as providing ‘knowledge management’ without regard to the true and underlying issues for effective knowledge management – that sharing knowledge is a social activity, not a technology-based one. When we have news to tell friends and colleagues we usually meet them for coffee or pick up the telephone and have a conversation. When we need to share ideas about how to make a process work more effectively we meet in a little room for a little while and brainstorm ideas. When a project finishes we often have ‘lessons learned’ in a hope to tell others about the successes and failures in order to learn from them. Enabling these activities to occur easily and encouraging them is real knowledge management in practice. The only problem is that the people you want aren’t always around and we’re not good at recording the truth and meaning behind these activities adequately because processes the processes for recording what we have in our heads is typically just too slow.”
“If we look back to the rich oral history of many of our cultures, blogging is a reflection of the need to story-tell, carrying with it important information not only on the what – the facts like the reports we typically store in our recordkeeping systems – but also the meaning behind the why and how.”