Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Social Knowledge

One of the ongoing debates in the world of KM is the ever controversial “collection or connection” classification. It neatly defines the two most common wings of the discipline, one emphasising an information or artefact driven approach, the other endorsing the essential role of the human context or, as I would say it, the application of the Mk1 Brain. As someone who describes knowledge as a verb not a noun in order to break with the information managers of this world and to reinforce the necessity of action to create value I think you can guess where I sit on this one.

However the argument neatly highlights the problem with KM. KM is hard. Its hard to define, hard to demonstrate ROI, counter cultural, long term, and yet it promises so much. Because it is hard it is easier to characterise it as information on steroids because people can “get” that and can task someone to go away and do it – problem solved. It gives management the secure warm feeling that they are “doing KM” because they have neatly pigeon-holed it under something that is somehow familiar. The problem is that this isn't KM and it is in fact something of a dead end.

In a way the the debate has found an echo in the Social Media domain. Creating value from Social Media is much more complicated than simply starting a Facebook page. There is familiar debate about the value of curation as opposed to creation, a debate about ROI, and we have an over emphasis of seeing Social Media through the lens of Marketing because once again people can “get” that and task someone to do it. But again that really isn't the whole story by any means and again is something of a dead end.

But curiously enough there is an area where we can find some progress and value by bringing the two together. Social Media is underpinned by a mindset rooted in collaboration and sharing, iteration, evolution and tearing down barriers to participation. This mindset is coming from outside the boundaries of the organisation and shaking the traditional structures and practises as it permeates its way in. The challenge is for organisations to embrace that and create value from it through new approaches, new business models and new thinking – in a word innovation.

KM is rooted in the same insight but has come from the other end of the telescope in that it has sought to to create that environment within organisations and push it outwards.

We can now go beyond this and by bringing these insights together and we can create tremendously rich possibilities for organisations by bringing together the elements of curation, collection, connection and most importantly applications that can operationalise these elements in to action and value generation. We call this Social Knowledge.

Of course it takes planning, analysis, and a strategy but it can be done and a good deal of my work at twintangibles is taken up with this

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