Mark Gould has a great post which has picked up on a thread in one of the LinkedIn forums on the "Pulling" and "Pushing" of information. Mark’s post also covers some blog discussion on the difference between sharing and communication, which I may add to in another post.
Nick Milton says in a blog post:
"…there is no point in creating a culture of sharing, if you have no culture of re-use. Pull is a far more powerful driver for Knowledge Management than Push, and I would always look to create a culture of knowledge seeking before creating a culture of knowledge sharing."
Firstly, we don’t create a knowledge sharing culture, we help create conditions so this happens!
I agree that the organisation needs to be open to helping others. Our best kind of Communities of Practice at work are the "Support" type. People ask questions, and others respond, discussion ensues, and usually the person who asked the question can take something away and move on…great sense-making via people to get things done at work. Plus everyone else on the thread got to learn for free.
In the future our CoPs at work will be complemented by a social network, which amplifies sense-making even more.
This perspective also reminds me of Nancy Dixon’s article "Does your organisation have an asking problem"
But I don’t entirely agree with Nicks statement, as it’s too black and white.
Plus when someone shares something it may not result in a direct action for me, but it may make something more clear for me, or give me a better outlook on something…this is an implicit type of value (even though I’m not actioning what I have learnt into something explicit).
Both "Push" and "Pull" are important!
As I mentioned, "Pull" to respond and help is crucial for people to do their work, but also "Push" allows an organisation to share what they are doing, their experiences, process…so we can be smarter and more capable people, and so the organisation can be more adaptable, agile and resilient.
Yes, response to questions are great, but we also need "Push"…in the future I may not need to ask the question if it’s already been shared kindly elsewhere. This happens a lot in our tips and tricks blogs at work.
Or put another way, when I need to make a decision in the future, some of those past blog post/comment fragments may come together to aid me in my decision.
This may happen unconsiously…I have subscribed to those people that "Pushed" those blog posts, perhaps conversed with them to make sense of them personally, and now I have absorbed them, and they become building blocks that come together when I make decisions.
As for blogging…even though it’s "Push", it also creates "Pull"…as people ask questions in the comments, and converse via trackbacks.
When "Push" is done with socially interactive tools, you get knowledge creation that keeps going, you get a worthwhileness as people can actually probe and internalise this shared information into personal knowledge. Now that’s KM!
A company that doesn’t have continual dialogue is stale and will not innovate, or have an edge.
Supply as stockpile or flow
"…sharing (“push”) is done at the expense of seeking (“pull”). The risk is you create supply, with no demand."
I guess this is a way to look at it from a market point-of-view, where modern marketing was the answer to deal with over supply. In the context of this post, it’s about motivating people to seek available information.
This is true if sharing is based on conscription, or not within an ecosystem…this is the non-interactive document-centric warehousing approach.
But what about blogging experiences and asking questions in a social network…this has more of an equilibrium, or yin and yang of share and seek.
What has been shared, quickly induces dialogue and at that point does it’s job of KM. People connecting, re-contextualising, learning…this is "Pull", because of "Push".
Hmmm, "the risk is you create supply, with no demand."
Google doesn’t know what I’m gonna ask today, but when I do I am led to a place where there is an answer, or where I can connect and interact with others to put that information into my context.
Or better still, I’m not gonna ask today as I remember someone blogging about it in the past, so I know what to do.
So the question here is not whether "push" is efficient or not, it’s they way the information is pushed.
Conscription to a database lacks motivation, context, is static, etc…see my post on KM in context.
Whereas pushing via a blog may induce more knowledge creation, it’s not static at all. I blog about an experience:
- people learn about it as they are subscribed
- others leave comments
- a conversation ensues
- this enables people to clarify, probe, re-frame
- so this information object (the blog post), creates some type of personal knowledge for people as they have been able to sense-make via conversations
When you "Push" via a social tool people can interact with that information object so it may become personal knowledge to them.
The fact I push a blog post, has allowed opportunity for knowledge creation n-fold.
If we only shared in response to "Pull", then we would never be innovative or grow…we wouldn’t have an edge. In life there is stuff we don’t know about, and when we hear about this stuff it excites us and becomes usable (today or tomorrow), we like these gifts. Without this we hear a lot of “if only you had told me that when I was doing that task”…” we didn’t know you guys were using that method, that seems more efficient and effective”
Push is not a servant to Pull
"Knowledge Push is inefficient and wasteful if there is no Pull, whether the push is done through blogs…"
I really don’t understand this comment. It’s seems too perfect and engineered, if not impossible.
I don’t think it’s a good idea to control "Push" in order for people to just push what’s needed…for how do we know what we need…we are living in times where we need to adapt and be resilient to a fast paced constantly changing environment.
We can’t control what business topics and experiences people blog about, they blog on their own terms, we are lucky that they share at all…so we have to be happy.
We cannot conscript people to blog only when it’s 100% usable now and will be re-used immediately…we are dealing with people here, not robots…people don’t like the big brother feel…people blog because there is an intrinsic motivation, not because they are told to.
Otherwise this is going back to old KM conscripting methods, but only with new tools…it’s useless anyway as it goes against the ethos of these new tools.
It’s about engagement, not knowledge sharing
People blog because connecting and dialogue is what we are about, we are social creatures…it fills this need.
Blogs smash silos, nurture transparency and flatter organisational conversations. People can be heard and have impact….your bosses boss, or a boss in another team can hear what you have to say…see my post, we are more than our job title describes. Blogs are great for talent retention, and being recognised…these are all intrinsic motivators.
Therefore it’s more than just knowledge sharing, it’s about people connecting and being fulfilled at work…therefore you cannot control the "Push".
When people "Push", we are always learning, and building capacity…next time when we are in a decision-making situation we may draw on those blog posts that floated past our radar.
The more "Push" the more smarter we become, and the more capable and quicker the organisation is able to respond to change.
Andrew Gent’s post on learning and capacity seems to fit in here:
"So just as the goal of college is to teach capabilities, not specific skills; the goal of KM is to facilitate knowledge development and transfer, not solely to apply knowledge to the product pipeline."
"Push" is good, but mostly when it’s social pushing like blogging.
Clarification on blogging as Just-in-Case
In the LinkedIn thread I refered to blogging as Just-in-Time, rather than Just-in-Case, and Nick picked me up on this saying that it was Just-in-Case/Storing/Push. He also acknowledges that it’s different to past KM sharing methods, alluding to its inbuilt intrinsic motivation, and that it can be interacted with (a dynamic, living, manifesting object).
He is partially correct, maybe "Just-in-Time" wasn’t the correct word, but I don’t think "Just-in-Case" is either. I meant to refer to the immediacy of blogging…an event happens, or is happening and we can blog with great recall right now. Let’s worry later about whether this can be formalised or distilled into something more proper. What’s important right now is we can use blogs to capture something as it happens, then have some dialogue. Later on the result of all this can be woven back into good practice.
Thanks to Mark Gould for a pithy insight:
"I don’t blog here, nor do I encourage the same kind of activity at work because someone might find the content useful in the future. I do it, and encourage it, because the activity itself is useful in this moment. It is neither just-in-case nor just-in-time: it just is."
To refer back to an earlier part of this post, it’s the feeling of connection you have at work and with your peers, and the feeling of sense-making and expression. The effectiveness of the KM concept of "Push" and "Pull" comes second.
Mark also refers to Patrick Lambe where he alludes to sharing is bigger than itself, the more you participate, the more you are connected. To me this means whether all sharing is useful or not right now doesn’t matter as it’s the aggregation of sharing and participation that gets you connected. And being connected is everything:
"We do have an evolved mechanism for achieving such deep knowledge results: this is the performance you can expect from a well-networked person who can sustain relatively close relationships with friends, colleagues and peers, and can perform as well as request deep knowledge services of this kind."
Mark also differentiates the re-use aspect in reference to types of knowledge:
"My suspicion is that organisations that rely especially highly on personal, unique, knowledge (or intellectual capital) should be a lot more relaxed about this than Nick suggests. His view may be more relevant in organisations where repetitive processes generate much more value."
Nick makes a good point:
"The people who blog (and I include myself in this) are the ones who want to be heard, and that’s not always the same as “the ones who need to be heard”. Knowledge often resides in the quietest people."
I don’t know the answer to this other than facilitating conditions and guidance for quiet people to feel safe and comfortable. Knowledge sharing is a voluntary act, just as opening your mouth and speaking is.
KM in action
At work we have a Tips and Tricks blog for the Document Management team.
When I was working on that team I was trouble shooting a problem for someone, and as a result came up with a tip on how to browse the system via email.
I thought I’d better write this down somewhere so I don’t forget (memory management), and to also share it with others…so I blogged it.
This generated conversation, as to why this was the case.
The fact that I blogged it both offered a tip, and also initiated a discussion.
Subscribers to the blog were thankful of my post as they too had come across this issue.
Subscribers to this blog sometimes use tips straight away, and sometimes it’s good to know for the future, and sometimes it creates conversation that leads somewhere else.
Subscribers of the blog are happy to subscribe to these small fragments (blog posts).
If I were to give them a months worth of posts they would not have the time to read them, but they have time to digest fragments as they happen.
In this scenario I’m pushing a blog post as it happened, as it turned out it was of great help to others, and created new discussion paths.
Forget "Push or "Pull", connecting is key
I cannot predict if my "Push" will be "Pulled", that’s just how it is.
And this is what I think Mark Gould referred to when he wrote:
"The key thing in all of this, for me, is that whether we talk of knowledge sharing, transfer, or management, it only has value if it can result in action: new knowledge generation; new products; ideas; thoughts. But I think that action is more likely if we are open-minded about where it might arise. If we try and predict where it may be, and from which interactions it might come, I think it is most probable that no useful action and value will result in the long term."
As quoted by Patrick Lambe earlier, this is only the half of it. The more you share the more you are connecting and building relationships and trust, and this is mighty important. And the third element is that I’m a satisfied and engaged knowledge worker in a connected and networked environment.
"…making sure that knowledge is not just ‘captured’ but that we do something with it"
I think there is more chance of this happening when the capturing is not considered capturing, but rather people sense-making and sharing/communicating…and when this is done with the right tools, that are within a networked environment. To me "Push and Pull" are more relationship based than isolated concepts, I can’t approach one without the other creeping in.
It refers to serendipity and network filtering…as I do my work, since you are subscribed to me, I’m filtering information for you, and vice versa. Everyone is getting mutual benefit from everyone else. We all become more capable and smarter people.
Ross Dawson uses some terms that used to seem futuristic, but are becoming more common place: collective intelligence, global brain.
Forget "Push or "Pull", context is key
David Weinberger, Valis Krebs, Patrick Lambe and Steve Barth talk about not "Push" (sharing) or "Pull" (seeking), but more about making the infomation make sense at a personal level:
David Weinberger says:
"But the real problem with the information being provided to us in our businesses is that, for all the facts and ideas, we still have no idea what we’re talking about. We don’t understand what’s going on in our business, our market, and our world.
In fact, it’d be right to say that we already *know* way too much. KM isn’t about helping us to know more. It’s about helping us to understand. Knowledge without understanding is like, well, information.”
So, how do we understand things? From the first accidental wiener roast on a prehistoric savannah, we’ve understood things by telling stories. It’s through stories that we understand how the world works"
Valdis Krebs says:
"The new advantage is context — how internal and external content is interpreted, combined, made sense of, and converted to end product. Creating competitive context requires social capital, the ability to find, utilize and combine the skills, knowledge and experience of others."
Patrick Lambe says:
“the internalisation problem is how the represented knowledge can be re-contextualised so that it makes sense within the recipients own world view”
Steve Barth talks about indigenous knowledge, and focusing on relationships and context rather then knowledge commodification:
"…more focus on studying the connections between elements of the natural environment and the human community than on discrete things themselves. As such, the focus on relationships rather than reification is more in line with complexity and systems theories than taxonomical or hierarchical approaches of traditional science. It’s a direct contrast, too, to the (fictional) objectivity of scientific observation and experimentation."
"Incorporating indigenous knowledge into development efforts leverages a number of its strengths. It demonstrates respect for those involved by focusing on their needs, resources, responsibilities and experience; it facilitates local adaptation of technologies and techniques instead of forcing untailored adoption; it supplements—rather than supplants—local theory and practice; and it improves the collective awareness and sense-making necessary to make adjustments as a project proceeds."
"…neo-indigenistas" (his term for those who would save indigenous knowledge by removing it from the wild) are being hypocritical when they advocate for gathering it into civilized central repositories. Disconnecting knowledge from its source, in terms of people and places, will remove from that knowledge the very context which infuses it with life. Because indigenous knowledge is continuously generated and renewed in the living practices of people, archiving in isolation from practice removes its ongoing relevance…."
KM made simple
Finishing off. I’m a real fan of the simple KM perspective by Gia Lyons, Richard Dennison. They allude to "Push and Pull" as part of the same symbiotic strategy.
Gia Lyons says:
"The whole point of social software, from the perspective of retaining corporate wisdom, is to make a wisdom holder’s surface knowledge available to a general population, so that other people can do the following:
Be aware that this knowledge exists in the organization, and who has it. This is a huge pre-cursor to effective collaboration – knowing people exist, and knowing what they know. In social network science terms, the goal is to increase your organizational network’s density, which means more awareness / connections between more people, and to reduce distance, which means fewer network “nodes” between two people, based on trusted relationships – you can’t call Kevin Bacon directly, for example, until you ask a guy you know who knows his agent to get you an appointment.
Determine with whom they should collaborate, if they even need to. The irony of social software is that many may never need to collaborate with you if you share your surface knowledge. And an added benefit is that if you ever do need to collaborate with that person, you’ve accelerated that effort beyond the “dumb question” stage. You can get to the really good stuff faster.
Begin a trusted relationship with someone. This is done by “talking” to them in a forum, a blog, commenting on their document, etc., in hopes that in the future, you can boldly call them and ask for their tacit wisdom."
Richard Dennison says:
"If we could achieve three things, I think we will have made more progress in the field of KM than we’ve ever managed before. Those things are:
- expose in the network who people are and what they are interested in/working on/thinking about …
- provide a way to search through the above and then offer a simple mechanism to connect like-minded people together in networks a
- automatically expose the activities of individuals to those in their networks through activity streams.
That’s it … simples!
Well … possibly not as simple as it sounds … but achievable at least."
In the end I partially agree with Nick saying that "Pull" is important otherwise what’s the use of sharing. But like conversation you just don’t know what’s gonna happen, what’s important is that you are having it, the opportunities, and the chance to probe for clarity…and that you feel connected and engaged. Within a networked environment the Pushing and Pulling of raw fragments as they happen, as opposed to a database full of static documents, is synergised. I think of it more as conversation, and conversation is work and knowledge creation.