Social Technologies: A Catalyst to the practice of Knowledge Management
Social increases momentum to the ebb & flow of knowledge management practice
Social technologies are a catalyst to the practice of knowledge management. Engaging in an active social network speeds the access to the 3 types of knowledge: (1) Personal knowledge (tacit or experiential), (2) knowledge at rest (consumable knowledge, informational assets) and exponentially expands access to (3) knowledge in motion (knowledge that is processed and exchanged as a result transformed and updated). As a result, if one has access to social technologies, our access to these types of knowledge increases, the speed at which we can transform that knowledge increases and thusly we are personally transformed faster by it.
Following is a personal example of how being part of an enterprise social network made a major difference in my new job. My personal story seeks to illustrate how you could use Social to increase this momentum in your own personal growth and career, or in your organization’s talent management initiatives.
A Personal passage
After a 2 year hiatus from Corporate World, I decided to return to work and on Feb 2013 I joined the Customer Success team at Yammer, Microsoft. As I approach my 1st year work anniversary, I am reflecting on the impact social technologies have on learning and the practice of managing knowledge. In particular, the effect it has had on my personal experience.
The first example, is my onboarding/orientation. The speed and method of my ramp up allowed me to quickly become “a productive” member of my team. I felt like Laird Hamilton, riding the biggest tidal wave of information and having a blast. In my previous experiences, the process for acquiring the knowledge and experience needed to execute the role of a Customer Success Manager and be customer-facing ready would take at least 3-6 months. In this instance, I joined the team in February and after 4 weeks I was assigned to 2 very important Global Accounts. I was at the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) stage- ready to be deployed. Ready to test the waters, keep learning at rapid cycles and improve as I went along.
The main difference for me was the speed and method of the practice of knowledge management and knowledge sharing. The experience felt akin to Canada’s Bay of Fundy* ebb and flow of information. I got plugged into several networks of knowledge and learned quickly how to absorb, process and contribute within that new framework.
I believe this visible difference in onboarding was a result of the organizational culture/environment, the technology and people around me more so than my attitude and ability to ramp fast. Without, taking away the fact that if there is no will there is just no way.
Another example is, the fact that I have seen customers whom were not familiar with social technologies or best practices around launching a social network in their companies… affected rapidly by this new knowledge management practice. I have seen how two high level Directors just by working differently and including social into his and her process of managing knowledge went from apprentices to mentors in a matter of months.
So, if I go back to my first example and analyze the types of knowledge that I had access to during my onboarding/orientation and ramp up, I would say it comes down to 3 interdependent types:
- Personal Knowledge. This is my personal and professional repository of knowledge based on my experiences. This is the knowledge I have between my ears sort of speak.
- Knowledge at Rest — the ebb. This is the knowledge I developed by accessing and getting my fill of an unlimited repository and tools of content (for example, databases, documents, policies, procedures and methodologies etc.)
- Knowledge in Motion — the flow. This is the knowledge I developed by tapping into a social network of practice: a community where I was encouraged to ask questions, seek feedback on my interpretations of the available content, share informed opinions and challenge the existing knowledge. It is the second company where I was able to easily engage in conversations at multiple levels within the organization and outside with customers.
So, in the past in order to get up to speed on the role, I would mainly rely on what I was given access to: knowledge at rest-documents, customer database systems, methodologies etc. I also had a small group of team members and superiors that would offer mentorship and guidance but the learning process was slow because the flow of the knowledge in motion was limited to a small network. It was up to me to figure out the details..devilish task indeed and one that took a lot longer that what has taken me this time around.
In my case Yammer, played a part in the “speed” element of how I leveraged these 3 types of knowledge which I will explain next.
The Practice of Knowledge Management at work
Let’s set a common ground. let’s start with the definition of knowledge management. I personally relate to Thomas Davenport’s straightforward definition of Knowledge Management: "Knowledge management is the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge” cited in the following KMWorld article.
By knowledge itself we can agree that it means: “1. information, understanding, or skill that you get from experience or education. 2 awareness of something : the state of being aware of something** or corporately speaking to be “organizations’ information assets.” ***
So, if we take the idea that each person has a personal repository of knowledge, as they join an organization, they have access to 2 types more: 1. Knowledge at Rest and 2. Knowledge in Motion. But the “practice of knowledge management” is how these 3 types interact with each other positively by capturing, distributing and using it…I would also add interpreting it and transforming it. The following article has a great analysis of these actions. I want to focus on the last 2: Using knowledge effectively and transforming it.
This is where the Practice part comes into play and having access to social networks technologies which speeds the discovery to valuable information and facilitates establishing connections with people with expertise.
I have read large amounts of information captured in a myriad of ways and systems but that alone was not enough to be able to use or transform that knowledge on my own. What made the difference was the new method of tapping into knowledge in motion — access to social networks via social tools. When I joined Yammer, I was joining a company that boasts a culture that shared openly, was not afraid to make mistakes and encouraged learning at rapid cycles by working out loud by using its tool. I was encouraged to practice; by posting questions, eliciting others to share and most importantly I was encouraged to share my personal interpretation of my newly acquired knowledge and challenge existing knowledge. I was simultaneously acquiring and transforming knowledge as I was being transformed myself.
So if I was to paint a single image of what I mean this would be it:
It was by combining all 3 knowledge types that I was able to effectively get started…but more importantly the fact that I had access to social networks where knowledge in motion was constantly available and by tapping into a community of experts engaging and reading conversations old and new that were relevant I was able to improve FAST as I went along.
In Yammer, the idea that working as a network improves how we manage knowledge is also included within the larger premise of the Responsive Organization manifesto.
My point is, that Social technologies are a catalyst to the practice of knowledge management. It speeds the access to the 3 types of knowledge: the community’s personal knowledge, to knowledge at rest (informational assets) and exponentially expands access to knowledge in motion. As a result, knowledge is used and transformed faster and it transforms us faster too.
Social technologies have affected me personally, but more importantly, I have seen how “working social” has had an impact in my customers knowledge management practice. 3 Major companies I am working with are implementing social as a central vehicle to spark momentum in their Global Know-How, Sharing and Collaboration initiatives. This is validation that the wave is surging and people want to ride it!
It is ONLY after “working social” ourselves that one can truly enhance the knowledge at rest, our personal knowledge and see the benefits of a more comprehensive knowledge management practice. We cannot talk about practicing, we need to have the will to actually do it and forever be changed by it.
So let’s get practicing, join the conversation today and share how you are being affected by it.
- tides in Nova Scotia's Bay of Fundy are the highest in the world. Twice a day 115 billion tones of water move in and out of the 160 mile long v-shaped pocket of sea-water. The rise and fall is 20, 30, often 40 feet in some places. During periods of high winds and a full moon, some Bay of Fundy tides have risen as high as fifty feet. The record variance between high and low has been measured as 54 feet in a place called Burncoat Head on the Minas Basin.
- **Merriam Webster Dictionary Definition
- *** Gartner Group Definition (Duhon 1998)