As mentioned in my earlier post, knowledge management core activities are sharing, innovating, reusing, collaborating, and learning. Connecting to expertise for advice and assistance is a key element of a successful knowledge management program.
In this second part of a three-part series, I’ll explain the different ways of connecting to people and expertise. These include communities, threaded discussions, Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs), expertise locators, and more.
Knowledge Management programs have frequently started out by focusing on collecting content: “Let’s gather all documents ever created and publish them in the official knowledge repository.” This approach didn’t work well and resulted in backlash—leading to a new movement to foster KM adoption through a focus instead on connecting people: “Let’s create communities of practice and Enterprise Social Networks, and then everyone can share content at the time of need and in context.”
Both collection and connection are valuable, and neither one should be emphasized over the other. Without context, content is not very useful. But without content that can be referenced and reused, communities and Enterprise Social Networks will continually need to share information stored on personal hard drives or a variety of disconnected web sites.
Following are examples of how to connect to people and expertise, and expand KM adoption
Communities are groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion for a topic, and who deepen their understanding and knowledge of this area by interacting on an ongoing basis. Members can share information, ask and answer questions, or find expertise and resources by posting and replying in threaded discussions. How to connect? Join a community and participate in its threaded discussions.
Threaded discussions are forums for carrying on discussions on a specific subject. They offer online and email posts and replies, searchable archives, and discussions grouped by threads to show the complete history on each topic. How to connect? Subscribe to get email notifications and post a query or request.
Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) facilitate social networking through threaded discussions. They feature personal profiles including bios, interests, links, photos, videos, personal networks, posts, and comments. ESNs can be used via the web and mobile devices, and are used to turn communication into interactive dialogue, photo sharing, and video sharing. How to connect? Join an ESN group and post in it.
Blogs are web sites where entries are made (such as in a journal or diary) and displayed in a reverse chronological order. They can provide commentary or news on a particular subject. Some function as personal online diaries or logbooks, combining text, images, and links to other blogs and web sites. How to connect? Start a blog, post regularly, and respond to comments; or subscribe to a blog, read it regularly, and post comments to it.
Wikis are web sites that allow users to easily add, remove, edit, and change most available content. They are effective for collaborative writing and self-service web site creation and maintenance. How to connect? Read and edit wiki pages.
Podcasts are recordings that can be listened to online, downloaded manually, or received automatically through subscription. They can then be listened to on mobile devices whenever is convenient. How to connect? Start a podcast or subscribe to one.
Videos are recordings of interviews, commentaries, explanations, presentations, interactive chats, animation, or other audiovisual communications. They are an excellent way for experts to explain how to perform specific tasks. How to connect? Record and post or search for and watch videos.
Expertise locators are systems for finding experts on particular subjects. They allow individuals to enter details about what they know and can do, and others to search for all people having desired skills and experience. How to connect? Maintain your skills profile and search for people with needed expertise.
Ask the Expert systems enable people to ask questions of experts and receive answers. This can be done without knowing who the experts are or contacting them directly. How to connect? Offer to participate as an expert or ask questions to find experts.
Crowdsourcing is the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people. This is especially effective when done in an online community that spans organizational boundaries rather than in a single organizational silo. How to connect? Post a request to a community.
Prediction markets are speculative markets created for the purpose of making predictions. The current market prices can then be interpreted as predictions of the probability of the event or the expected value of the parameter. How to connect? Initiate a prediction market or refer to an existing one.
Idea generation is the creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas, where an idea is understood as a basic element of thought that can be either visual, concrete, or abstract. This can be done through specialized systems, ESNs, or as part of one-time or recurring innovation challenges. How to connect? Initiate or participate in an innovation challenge, submit an idea to an ideation system, or request ideas in an innovation management system.
In the third and final part of this series, I’ll discuss accessing content.
V. Mary Abraham is an author, consultant and facilitator who has been active in legal industry knowledge management since 1991.
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