Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Personal Knowledge Solos and Siloes -- the Uncooperative Side of Collaboration

The most accusational word in the language of KM is "hoarding." This is a label that us true KM believers afix to the folks on the periphery of our SharePoint deployments who don't call or write or reciprocate our calls to pool resources and know-how:

"Don't be a star, be a galaxy," we implore with our open minds and empty SharePoint sites.

Last week one of the directors at my firm posted a simple and direct request to his peers through the our community of practice lists. These email accounts are often called upon for information requests and rarely repatriated when some helpful responses materialize. In other words it's culturally okay to spam your colleagues. But it's not cool to close the loop with the learning you pick-up along the way.

The welcome change in this outcome was that the director saved each response and posted them to the same inbound email list within SharePoint. The result was that lots of undocumented experience was now referencable in a single folder and worth more than all the PowerPoint pile-ons one could ever dump off the deep-end of an abandoned fileshare.

The promises and the perils of community-based discussions are best summed up by Dave Snowden, KM deity and sense-maker of complex adaptive systems. Snowden seems to have the knowledge capital culture of small, elite professional service firms down cold when he posits the all-or-nothing proposition of knowledge requests versus knowledge requirements:

“If you ask someone for assistance in the context of real and immediate need it will rarely be refused. Ask someone to share knowledge in the absence of that need, or in a form or manner determined by a centralised function then it will nearly always be refused.”

The lesson for knowledge-minders is to design their KM systems around the noninvasive ways that service professionals seek collegial guidance. Even the artifice of re-posting a response is preferable to broadcasting a list of "best response practices" or requiring participation. As Snowden intimates there's no more reliable way to deaden a live discussion.

Here's the link to some of Snowden's other renderings.

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attentionSpin is a consulting practice formed in 1990 to create, automate and apply a universal scoring system (“The Biggest Picture”) to brands, celebrities, events and policy issues in the public eye. In the Biggest Picture, attentionSpin applies the principles of market research to the process of media analytics to score the volume and nature of media coverage. The explanatory power of this research model: 1. Allows practitioners to understand the requirements for managing the quality of attention they receive 2. Shows influencers the level of authority they hold in forums where companies, office-seekers, celebrities and experts sell their visions, opinions and skills 3. Creates meaningful standards for measuring the success and failure of campaigns and their connection to marketable assets.