Let’s face it, when you deal with knowledge sharing in an organization, it becomes quickly obvious that most knowledge is shared personally, face-to-face over the telephone or in the cafeteria. In a personal conversation people can describe issues in length, reply to questions and tell the “real” story. Formal meetings often do not give space for vibrant discussions and are often not the forum to describe the pros and cons. Although by listening to the experiences of others, best learning can be achieved.
An ordinary organization has usually a top-down controlled Intranet, where the different departments add their contributions. Sometimes there is even a forum, but in many cases hardly used at all – it is somewhere hidden or a hassle to access. The organizational life is happening somewhere else and employees on a business trip or in a different branch are cut off.
Social software offers at least three new ways for organization to benefit from:
- To get a picture of what is really happening in an organization. What are the major topics? What is it what staff discusses and cares about? Not all is going to be public, but a lot more than a top-down Intranet or internal communication by the corporate communication department. Is your organization ready for that?
- To bring people with same interests together without typing with your numb finger over the telephone. Personal employee’s pages, such as yellow pages, can be easily linked through common key words (tags) by interests, competencies, blog posts, projects on wiki pages etc. Check your del.icio.us (a social bookmarking site) or this video and browse through it and see yourself how quickly you find like-minded people. On delicious it is often anonymous, but in an organization it is all linked to employees and their expertise, their projects and questions. Check out 20 things to do on a social network in the office.
- To increase productivity and emphasize innovation. To imagine employees to network on a peer-to-peer basis. A transparent open network will not only brings synergies and avoids to reinvention of the wheel, but also offers innovations. Like-minded people collaborate on their preferred topics. Staff with similar ideas find each other or new ideas arose out of discussions between people who have different departments.
Why should they do it? It certainly needs transparency and trust but the benefit and mutual gain can come quickly. But this is of course a nightmare scenario to all those employees, who treat knowledge as power. Because in this kind of open horizontal community you are what you share!
**How to start? **
Here are some rather bottom-up approaches:
- Start a collaborative tagging experiment over del.icio.us with colleagues to see how easy the sharing of valuable information can be, or open up a room on friendfeed to discuss right away resources.
- Use external tools for your team to make project management easier. One example could be a blog for your project’s history, milestones and other management tasks.
- Connect with colleagues through existing social networks such as Xing, Linkedin or Facebook and use it for exchange.
- Extend informal activities on the web and make other colleagues be aware of it: bulletin board, liftsharing etc.
- As Joitske commented on my first blog post, you can address a specific problem and use social media for an open transparent discussion.
This is a blog post series about my experiences on web2.0 in an organization, consisting of at least 26 different blog posts highlighting potentials and challenges and focusing on success factors. Please feel free to comment, contact me for further information and/or let me know which other topics within this context you would be interested on.