Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Social Software and the KM Connection

How closely aligned are social software tools and your KM goals? As noted by Jack Vinson this morning, Mike Gotta's post is an excellent reminder that the two often go hand-in-hand.

I'm currently in Portal construction mode these days (why new posts have been sparse), so both Jack and Mike's comments really hit home. When it comes to delivering on the goals of KM, as Jack points out, it really is about "smoothing bumps in the path of finding, using and creating knowledge".

I've always been a fan of well honed online communities (both public and behind the firewall), and their ability to connect those who wouldn't otherwise be connected. As KM practitioners, we seek new ways to extract the 'tacit' (stuff in people's heads) and make it explicit (get it codified). Why? So we can generate connections - yes, between people and knowledge, but also to enable social connections. Building knowledge based collections is important (and not to be forgotten), but only half the battle. To complete the circle, we must also facilitate the 'social'.

One of the biggest changes for KM in recent years, has been the expanded role of documenting experience and expertise. And perhaps obviously, social software tools (read - forums, blogs, wikis, reading lists & bookmark sharing, etc.) have the potential for a big impact. Why? Two reasons come to my mind:
  • First, these software packages are indeed documenting internal expertise, but are also paving the way for physical conversations within your organization. Like-minded practitioners get to know about each other, and those in search of 'someone' who does 'something' won't waste their time - that person will be obvious.

  • The second reason, is that social software can take some informal 'behind closed door' conversations, and make them public. Not all conversations are made to be public, but some are. Think about how many global emails get sent around. Any of them repetitive? any worth saving?
Most corporate environments, law being no different, can become silos when individuals or groups fail to connect. Social software tools are just another channel (the more, the better!) to get people talking - this is good for company culture, internal communications, the cross-selling of practice groups ... and one of the goals of KM.


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