KM Conversations—Social Collaboration Part 3: Sharing and Reusing Knowledge

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

February 13, 2020

Social collaboration enables users to share and reuse knowledge, enhance content, and build communities of practice. In this final part of a three-part series, I’ll discuss sharing and reusing knowledge. There will be a companion free webinar on February 26, 2020 (subscription link at the foot of this post).

Sharing provides a supply of knowledge and is necessary to allow reuse. Reuse is the other side of the coin and represents the demand for knowledge. Knowledge sharing and reuse are facilitated in communities of practice through the use of threaded discussions and blogs.

Sharing Knowledge

Shared knowledge is often about how to do something:

  1. Perform a task
  2. Use a method, process, or technique
  3. Solve a problem
  4. Deliver a service
  5. Create a new product or service

Hypotheses and theories are another way that knowledge is shared:

  1. Postulate
  2. Experiment
  3. Confirm, verify, or prove
  4. Debunk or disprove
  5. Reveal a discovery, invention, or breakthrough

Shared knowledge also includes:

  1. Insights
  2. Explanations and descriptions
  3. Anecdotes and stories
  4. Advice (what to do, where to go, etc.)
  5. Warnings (what not to do, what to avoid, etc.)

Reusing Knowledge

Once you have developed an effective process, you want to ensure that others use the process each time a similar requirement arises. If someone has written a document or created a presentation which addresses a recurring need, it should be used in all future similar situations. When members of your organization have figured out how to solve a common problem, know how to deliver a recurring service, or have invented a new product, you want that same solution, service, and product to be replicated as much as possible. Just as the recycling of materials is good for the environment, reuse is good for organizations because it minimizes rework, prevents problems, saves time, and accelerates progress.

Here are five ways to reuse to knowledge:

  1. Adapt previous deliverables to avoid redundant effort and thus reduce costs and increase profits
  2. Replicate proven practices to avoid making the same mistakes twice and thus avoid costly failures
  3. Apply existing expertise, experience, and problem-solving capability to take advantage of what the organization already knows and has accomplished and thus increase revenues
  4. Repeat standard processes and procedures to ensure consistency and predictability and thus increase profits
  5. Adopt published methods, tools, templates, and techniques to deliver effectively and with high quality and thus increase customer satisfaction

Knowledge management doesn’t happen until somebody reuses something. Reuse is applying and adapting existing content to new situations. Reuse is the core process of knowledge management.

Threaded Discussions

Threaded discussions are forums for carrying on conversations 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

Threaded discussions provide benefits to communities of practice and to the organization. They enable community members to:

  • Share a link, tip, trick, or insight
  • Ask a question to collaborate with others
  • Find a resource, person, or site
  • Answer someone’s question
  • Recognize a colleague’s contribution or achievement
  • Inform about what you are working on, where you are, or where you will be
  • Suggest an idea and solicit input using a poll

The organization benefits by having a reliable place where people with questions and problems can be directed to get answers and solutions, a searchable archive of the discussions, and a way for people to learn about their specialty and to develop in it. The broader the membership in a threaded discussion, the greater the benefit to the organization. This is due to having the widest possible range of perspectives, the greatest possible number of people to answer questions and solve problems, and greater leverage of all knowledge shared.

Providing a way for questions to be asked and answers to be supplied is a key function of threaded discussions. Community members post questions such as “has anyone done this before?”, “does anyone know how to do this?”, and “where can I find this?”, and other members respond with answers, suggestions, and pointers to more information.

Another use of threaded discussions is sharing insights, techniques, and innovations with community members. Posting a tip on how a problem was solved, a customer was helped, or a breakthrough was achieved allows many others to reuse that knowledge in other contexts.

When used in conjunction with community events, repository contributions, and published articles, threaded discussions allow communities to reflect on the events, provide feedback on the contributions, and debate ideas in the articles. This extends the useful life of events, publicizes submitted content, and stimulates the lively exchange of ideas.


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.

Blogs are a way of empowering users to express their ideas, record their thinking, and link to others who are doing the same. Organizations can use blogs to communicate, solicit comments, and engage in online conversations. Blogs serve as a good archive of communications, since each post is stored by date, and it is possible to search just within a specific blog to find previous posts.

For knowledge management, blogs are good tools for communications, personal knowledge management, and social networks. As a communications tool, they are available online, can be easily searched, and can be syndicated and subscribed to using RSS or other feeds. Blogs provide a way to connect to other people interested in similar ideas. Readers of blogs can make comments that clarify and enhance what has been posted and stimulate the creation of new knowledge.

In Summary

Social collaboration enables colleagues to interact to exchange ideas, share experiences, work together on projects, and solve problems together. Embedding social collaboration into a knowledge management system makes it far more useful than a content-only repository or a standalone social platform.

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

KM expert, consultant and author, Stan Garfield, will be presenting the third in a series of KM Conversations for Lucidea on Wednesday, February 26, 2020 at 11:00 am Pacific, 2:00 pm Eastern—subscribe here to be notified. Stan has compelling information to share, based on his distinguished career as a KM practitioner. Read his posts for our Think Clearly blog, and learn about Inmagic Presto, which has powered the KM  initiatives of many organizations.


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