Barriers To Knowledge Sharing

Why is it that some organisations still focus on the document, and being able to hold ‘the strategy’ in their hands. We need to be able to hold the strategy in our heads, not our hands and this happens when its implementation is embedded in what the organisation does, day in and day out.

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Knowledge ManagementKnowledge sharing is the corner-stone of many organisations’ knowledge-management (KM) strategy. Despite the growing significance of knowledge sharing’s practices for organisations’ competitiveness and market performance, several barriers make it difficult for KM to achieve the goals and deliver a positive return on investment.

This list of knowledge sharing barriers provides a helpful starting point and guideline for senior managers auditing their existing practices with a view to identifying any bottle-necks and improving on the overall effectiveness of knowledge-sharing activities.

The list will also give some indication of the complexity of knowledge sharing as a value-creating organisational activity.

The list is based on an academic paper by Andreas Riege  [ “Three-dozen knowledge-sharing barriers managers must consider”, Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 9 Iss: 3, pp.18 – 35] and is divided into three categories: personal, organisational and technological.

Personal knowledge sharing barriers

  • general lack of time to share knowledge, and time to identify colleagues in need of specific knowledge;
  • apprehension of fear that sharing may reduce or jeopardise people’s job security;
  • low awareness and realisation of the value and benefit of possessed knowledge to others;
  • dominance in sharing explicit over tacit knowledge such as know-how and experience that requires hands-on learning, observation, dialogue and interactive problem solving;
  • use of strong hierarchy, position-based status, and formal power (“pull rank”);
  • insufficient capture, evaluation, feedback, communication, and tolerance of past mistakes that would enhance individual and organisational learning effects;
  • differences in experience levels;
  • lack of contact time and interaction between knowledge sources and recipients;
  • poor verbal/written communication and interpersonal skills;
  • age differences;
  • gender differences;
  • lack of social network;
  • differences in education levels;
  • taking ownership of intellectual property due to fear of not receiving just recognition and accreditation from managers and colleagues;
  • lack of trust in people because they misuse knowledge or take unjust credit for it;
  • lack of trust in the accuracy and credibility of knowledge due to the source; and
  • differences in national culture or ethnic background; and values and beliefs associated with it (language is part of this).

Organisational knowledge sharing barriers

  • integration of KM strategy and sharing initiatives into the company’s goals and strategic approach is missing or unclear;
  • lack of leadership and managerial direction in terms of clearly communicating the benefits and values of knowledge sharing practices;
  • shortage of formal and informal spaces to share, reflect and generate (new) knowledge;
  • lack of transparent rewards and recognition systems that would motivate people to share more of their knowledge;
  • existing corporate culture does not provide sufficient support for sharing practices;
  • deficiency of company resources that would provide adequate sharing opportunities;
  • external competitiveness within business units or functional areas and between subsidiaries can be high (e.g. not invented here syndrome);
  • communication and knowledge flows are restricted into certain directions (e.g. top-down);
  • physical work environment and layout of work areas restrict effect sharing practices;
  • internal competitiveness within business units, functional areas, and subsidiaries can be high;
  • hierarchical organisation structure inhibits or slows down most sharing practices; and
  • size of business units often is not small enough and unmanageable to enhance contact and facilitate ease of sharing.

Technological knowledge sharing barriers

  • lack of integration of IT systems and processes impedes on the way people do things;
  • lack of technical support (internal and external) and immediate maintenance of integrated IT systems obstructs work routines and communication flows;
  • unrealistic expectations of employees as to what technology can do and cannot do;
  • lack of compatibility between diverse IT systems and processes;
  • mismatch between individuals’ need requirements and integrated IT systems and processes restrict sharing practices;
  • reluctance to use IT systems due to lack of familiarity and experience with them;
  • lack of training regarding employee familiarisation of new IT systems and processes;
  • lack of communication and demonstration of all advantages of any new system over existing ones.

And a  final point – worth bearing in mind for those people (or organisations) who think that a KM strategy is something that you implement as a document or a slideshow (I know, I’ve worked for a few!):

Why is it that some organisations still focus on the document, and being able to hold ‘the strategy’ in their hands? We need to be able to hold the strategy in our heads, not our hands and this happens when its implementation is embedded in what the organisation does, day in and day out.

Amen to that!

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Content Curation Primer

The Internet is a wonderful invention. We can find out almost anything we need to know, from cures for rashes to what’s on at the local cinema to the recipe for chocolate cake. We’ve come to expect that whatever we need to know, someone somewhere will have made it available on the Internet. Better still, with the revolution in mobile technology, we have access to this information more or less at any time, any place and on any device. We are truly an information-driven society, where news reaches us within an instant of it happening, anywhere in the world. We know what our friends are doing, where they are, and quite often – what they’ve just had to eat!

We’re also pretty adept at buying stuff online. Need a new TV? A quick search will give us many thousands of options. We can drill down to specific stores, do price comparisons and be swamped with options and technical specifications. No shortage of information there.

It should probably come as no surprise that information volume is now doubling every 11 hours [Source IBM], or that every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003 [Source: Eric Schmidt], and I’m guessing that most people will have seen the (in)famous infographic showing what happens in an ‘Internet Minute’ – reproduced below.

What happens in an internet minute

An Internet Minute - click to enlarge
An Internet Minute – click to enlarge

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Source: Intel]

So where is all of this leading?

To quote from IBM’s “The Toxic Terabyte”:

Knowledge is power – but only if it can be extracted quickly and effciently from an ever-growing mass of data. Businesses and other organisations now see their information stocks snowballing beyond their ability to manage them and beginning to work against the health of the enterprise by damaging effciency and bottom lines.

The stock answer to the data pile-up is more cheap storage and lots of it. But reflexively pumping everything and anything into an apparently limitless reservoir hurts the organisation in three ways:

  1. It becomes harder and harder to retrieve information promptly

  2. More people are needed to manage increasingly chaotic data dumps

  3. Networks and application performance are slowed by excess traffic as users search and search again for the material they need.

As we struggle to manage the Internet fire-hose, it has probably already occurred to many people that more information is not the same as ‘better’ information; that the volume of information is working on some sort of inverse relationship to ‘relevant’ information, and that having millions of choices and options hinders rather than helps us make the right decisions.

It seems obvious that with this proliferation of data and information we are in increasing need of systems to sort, maintain and re-purpose digital content in a systematic manner. For a while now we’ve been making do with search as a primary means of sifting through the pile. But search is only really good for “fast-food” information; getting you the answers quick and dirty, without much thought for context or quality. If you want quality information, then you need to go via a content curator.

The role of the curator has been valued for centuries, but it has been traditionally associated with the professionals who practice their art in the confines of the world’s museums and galleries. To suggest that digital curators all bring the same depth and breadth of knowledge as a professional curator might be stretching a point. But there are more similarities than differences. Curation is all about creating value from collections – which can be physical things such as art exhibitions or museum artifacts; or digital content, such disc jockey music mixes, website reviews of best TV buys, or a collection of the best educational videos. Curators know that the sum of an experience can be greater than the individual parts. And you don’t always have to be an expert to tell a decent story.

Digital content curation is becoming an increasingly valuable skill. Applying expert knowledge to a broad information domain in order to filter out the noise and identify useful and relevant information, possibly adding knowledgeable insight to the information to create added value, is all part of the role of the accomplished content curator. These emergent skills are increasingly in demand by information consumers (and especially managers and executives) who are drowning in a sea of information and want up-to-date, relevant, decision-ready information, delivered quickly enough for them to make use of it.

The knowledge and skills that underpin the content curation role would – it seems to me – be consistent with those of traditional “Information Professionals”, e.g. Knowledge and Information Managers, Community Managers, Data Analysts, Librarians etc., though they may not recognise this themselves. The problem of information overload can be addressed by good information management practice. For example: use of filters, advanced search techniques, categorisation, tagging, use of taxonomies and ontologies – bread and butter to most information professionals. The added dimension for effective curation is the interpretation of the information, adding meaning and insight to curated content, summarising key points, or providing a narrative or story to connect the pieces.

This, then is the essence of a series of courses on Content Curation that I’m running this year, specifically aimed at and for “Information Professionals”. The first course is scheduled for 20th June and has the following key objectives:

  • Be able to use powerful search techniques and aggregation tools to find and filter relevant information.
  • Know how to use taxonomies, folksonomies and tagging to manage and organise information and develop techniques to identify and validate trusted information sources.
  • Understand how to personalise appropriate content curation tools and services.
  • Publish curated content relevant to your chosen domains of expertise.
  • Be able to deliver decision-ready information to users, customers and stakeholders in order to demonstrate your value to your organisation.

Book now if this something that appeals to your personal development plan, or if it’s something that your organisation could benefit from.

If you’re still not sure what “Content Curation” actually means, check out the brief presentation below.

To conclude with one quote: “It’s not information overload; it’s filter failure” Clay Shirky.

And a recommended read about use of personal filters: Filtering – from Information Deluge to Context with JP Rangaswami

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The ART of Collaboration (reprise)

I will be giving a talk to delegates from the Knowledge and Innovation Network (KIN) next week on the topic of “Gamification” (the integration of game principles and dynamics into non-game contexts in order to encourage participation).  This reminded me of a post I published in 2012, which touched on the issue of motivation (e.g. incentives and rewards) to drive more effective collaboration and knowledge sharing.  I believe the key points in the earlier post are still relevant today, and hence this reprise.

“Knowledge can only be volunteered, it can’t be conscripted”. A quote from the redoubtable Dave Snowden. But is the same true for collaboration? If people are given the right tools and the right environment, will they spontaneously collaborate and share knowledge? Why do some people find it difficult to share and collaborate? Would incentives and rewards make a difference?

What is “collaboration”?

According to dictionary definitions, collaboration means:

  1. The act of working with another or others on a joint project
  2. Something created by working jointly with another or others
  3. The act of cooperating as a traitor, especially with an enemy occupying one’s own country.

I think we can discount point 3 from this discussion, but it is worth testing all three of these definitions with the behaviours described later in this blog post to determine whether there are consistent characteristics that can be applied to all three.

For the purpose of having one single, all-embracing definition, I prefer to use the following:

Collaboration is when individuals or groups work together, combining their strengths and negating weaknesses to accomplish a set of goals.

I think the important point about this definition is that the outcomes are more likely to be amplified when working together as opposed to individually.

Types of Collaboration

It might help our comprehension about what we mean by “collaboration” by looking at various collaborative models.

Peer to Peer Production

Not to be confused with P2P file sharing, such as BitTorrent. P2P production is defined as “any coordinated, (chiefly) internet-based effort whereby volunteers contribute project components, and there exists some process to combine them to produce a unified intellectual work”. Source: Wikipedia.

The process is one-step, meaning the user accesses some or part of an original file from a P2P community website, modifies or enhances the file in some way, and then submits the modified file back into the community.

Probably the best-known examples of peer-to-peer production networks are the Apache Foundation Network and the Linux network (8000 developers from 800 countries). Other collaborative networks include ccMixter, a community music site featuring remixes licensed under Creative Commons where you can listen to, sample, mash-up, or interact with music and Remix The Video, and Scratch, for creating interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art for sharing on the web.

As part of my research for this presentation I attended a lecture at City University London, given by Dr Stephen Clulow, who described the motivators for peer-to-peer collaboration as:

  • Competence
  • Autonomy
  • Relatedness (knowing what you are doing is appreciated by others).

I’ll come back to motivators later in this post.

The Digital Workplace

Collaboration in the workplace is now high on the priority list of many organisations seeking to leverage social technologies to free-up knowledge and provide opportunities for co-creation, co-production and innovation.

I particularly liked this diagram and explanation from Jane McConnell at Net Strategy (reproduced below):

Digital Workplace

Source: http://netjmc.com/digital-workplace/digital-workplace-in-brief-5-fundamentals

  • The managed dimension includes business applications and validated, authoritative, reference content. It is primarily internal but extends partially into the client-partner sphere for inter-enterprise projects and processes.
  • The structured collaborative dimension involves teamwork on projects with specific goals, deliverables and timelines. It overlaps with both social collaboration and the managed dimension.
  • The social collaborative dimension is self-organizing. It includes social networking, micro blogging, community building and other social features such as user-generated content. This dimension stretches the furthest into the public world and is deliberately drawn off the chart because it is the biggest unknown today and triggers the most apprehension in management.

David Gauntlet has defined the motivators for collaboration in the digital workplace in his book “Making Is Connecting” as:

  • Pleasure
  • To feel an active participation
  • A wish to be recognised.

I’ll come back to motivators later in this post, but first, let’s look at what prevents people from collaborating and sharing knowledge.

Barriers to collaboration

Understanding the barriers and obstacles is the first step to identifying potential solutions. Individuals acting alone may not be empowered to make the desired changes, but if there is a real desire to collaborate and share knowledge, most if not all of these obstacles can be overcome or circumvented.

In no particular order:

Knowledge is power

Knowledge and information hoarders exist in every organisation. However, their knowledge is likely to be one-dimensional and limited to their own small network. This can’t compare to the wealth of knowledge in social networks. A case of “none of us is smarter than all of us”.

Fear of change

There is no doubting that we live in far more uncertain times, where change and complexity is all around us. Holding back change is a bit like King Canute – with same outcome!

Can’t teach an old dog new tricks

Some people will never change. Accept it and move on.

Command and control

We don’t collaborate because there’s a real or perceived hierarchy in the workplace. Over the years, the leadership has developed a culture that appears to value one person or group over another.

WIIFM

What’s in it for me? It’s reasonable to seek value in what you do; otherwise you’ll consider your actions as being a waste of time.

Lack of time

The research report “Why Businesses Don’t Collaborate” cites the management of email and attending meetings as the biggest consumers of staff time. These points probably deserve more time and space than I’m giving them here, but the underlying issues here are (a) deciding what is important and (b) having some control of, or input to, meeting agendas.

Lack of support from the top

Bottom-up initiatives will fail to take hold unless there is some support from senior managers and directors. Collaboration initiatives need to be aligned with business or service goals.

Sceptical middle management

What I call the “marzipan layer”. You may have support from the top (the icing), and bottom-up encouragement (the cake). But middle management is more likely to understand the detailed processes that provide the foundations for how the organisation operates. They will be potentially risk-averse, since any change may have unpredictable consequences, and for which they may be accountable.

No tools/poor tools/too many tools

To be effective, collaboration has to be made simple. Intuitive tools accelerate user acceptance and can maximise the outcomes. However, tools need to be relevant and optimised to the task(s) to be completed. Too many choices result in cognitive dissonance (confusion on what to use for each task). No tools – no comment!

Inadequate education/support strategies

Collaboration needs to be recognised as a key workplace skill, and included in personal learning & development plans.  It’s not something that can be taught in a pedagogical sense, but can be encouraged through coaching and mentoring.

Information overload

Usually associated with management of email. Not the best environment for collaboration, or finding what is relevant from the torrent that hits your email inbox each day. Requires discipline on what is shared – does everyone need to know this snippet of information?

Micromanagement

Once assigned a task or objective by a manager, most knowledge workers will just want to get on with it, with a degree of autonomy on how they go about it.  Some managers or supervisors feel the need to oversee every small detail, which discourages initiative and dis-incentivises the worker.

Dissonance

It happens when bosses tell people they want everyone to collaborate. But at the same time, they assign tasks, targets and goals to various individuals and teams. Agendas that vary greatly and can range from complementary to conflicting.

Too-Rigid job descriptions

Tightly written and prescriptive job descriptions will that create real or perceived boundaries that inhibit initiatives and taking on new responsibilities.

Language

Collaboration is always going to be difficult if the parties cannot make themselves understood.

Culture

Not every culture is open and transparent. Need to be aware of rules and protocols that define collaboration with other cultures.

Geography

The layout of your workplace can help or hurt collaboration. The greater the distance between colleagues, the greater the chance of flawed communication.

Not just over-reliance on e-mail when face-to-face conversation is needed, but genuine “out of sight, out of mind” lapses that keep smart people out of the brainstorming, decision making or socialising that leads to positive outcomes.

Fear of rejection

You have something to contribute, but previous experience leads you to believe that your opinion is not valued. Typically seen in hierarchical networks.

Legal, Compliance, Security

It’s not always possible, or even desirable to have open and transparent discussion. Closed groups or communities can be used in some circumstances, but we have to accept that sometimes wider collaboration is not possible.

Digital Divide

Hopefully less of an issue than it used to be, but there is no doubt that anyone not able to connect to the Internet is likely to be at a disadvantage for knowledge and information sharing.

Collaboration Motivators (Incentives and Rewards)

Speaking personally, incentives and rewards have never made any difference to me in terms of making me want to collaborate more than I do at present. But there is evidence that incentives do work for some (albeit artificial) scenarios, such as Macon Money.  This “serious game” explored how diverse people within a community could be brought together using real-world incentives (in this case, players holding half of a “play bond” tried to find the local citizen bearing the other half, then turned in their play money for real cash).

It’s clear that gaming concepts can draw people into taking interest and becoming part of something bigger than themselves, e.g. earning badges in FourSquare. But we’re also starting to see game technology being used in enterprise collaboration solutions, such as the Jive Gamification Module.

I was hoping to collect some hard evidence of how incentives and rewards might be influencing collaborative behaviours by posting this question on Quora:

Is there any evidence that rewards and incentives improve team-working and collaboration?

There has been little response, but whether this is because there is little or no evidence, or because the question didn’t really excite the community I’m not sure.

So for me, the jury is still out on this one, at least until I see some better evidence than in the Macon Money example mentioned previously.

The ART of collaboration

Admittedly I haven’t read every book, white paper or blog that purports to reveal the secrets of good collaborative behaviour. However, I have done sufficient research to realise that this is a very complex topic. I must admit that I’ve not been wholly convinced by what I have read, heard or seen and I don’t think anyone has really identified the key characteristics of good collaborator. So I’ve fallen back on my own experience (over many more years than I care to mention), and identified the characteristics that I think are most important for online collaboration.

1. Authenticity

This is not just ‘identity’, in terms of an on-line profile. It means, “are you who you say you are”? Are you truthful, genuine and sincere? Do you provide relevant attributions to your sources? Do you cite the origins of your content? Are you indeed a human being? Not to be confused with a Bot or a clever Artificial Intelligence application (don’t laugh even experts can be fooled. See the Turing Test).

2. Recognition (or Reward)

One thing that academics do appear to agree on is that a key influencer for good collaborative behaviour is recognition or reward. This does not have to be monetary reward, or gaining power and influence though promotion. In many cases it is simply being recognised as someone who has demonstrated knowledge or expertise on a particular topic. For the truly networked individual, to be acknowledged as an “expert” by your peers carries far more weight than some transient, short-term financial reward. I would go so far as to argue that collaborative behaviour that is driven mostly or entirely by financial reward will only be very superficial and is not sustainable in the long term.

3. Trust

To my mind, the most important characteristic, and the most ephemeral, since it’s not something that can be easily measured or evaluated. Trust relies on believing that a person will behave reasonably and will do what he or she says.

We establish trust with the people we engage with by the way we behave and how they reciprocate. Feelings of empathy with another person may also play a part. Establishing trust with people in an online network is more difficult than for face-to-face encounters, where we can tap into emotional signals and evaluate body language. However, trust, once established, can be just as strong for on-line engagement as it is for real-life. In fact, there are many people in my on-line networks that I’ve never met; yet I trust them more than some of the people I meet from day to day.

4. Passion

Enthusiasm, commitment, devotion to a cause or belief – all of these define ‘passion’. These are strong, emotional characteristics that provide the motivation for collaboration.  Having passion for something (or someone?) gives a meaning to our actions and, in the context of collaboration, connects the authenticity, recognition and trust characteristics. Long before there were social networks, hobbyists would gather to share their passion, whether it is photography, model making, knitting or gardening.  Such clubs and organisations are founded on the principles of sharing of ideas and techniques to support learning and improvement.  But the other (and arguably more significant) factor is that members of these gatherings also crave recognition for something they have achieved. This is not dissimilar to the recognition we wish to achieve through online collaboration, where knowledge or expertise can be recognised by our peers.

The diagram below shows how all of these characteristics combine together to form what I believe is the ideal model for collaborative behaviour. My only surprise from the research I undertook for this topic (admittedly not exhaustive) was how few references there were to “Trust”, and no references at all to “Authenticity”. Two of my key characteristics. However, we all seem to agree on ‘Recognition” as one of the fundamental characteristics.

ART of Collaboration

To conclude: I’ve emphasised the acronym ART in this post and in the diagram above because I do feel that effective collaboration is an “art” in the true sense of the word, i.e. a skill that is learnt through practice. I wonder….are you practising this ART enough?

Useful References.

Collaborative behaviours

View more presentations from Collabor8now Ltd
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Online Information Conference & Show Closes

Sad

As reported in a brief statement posted to the Online Information Conference website, there will not be an exhibition or conference this year, 2014, with no certainty that it will re-appear in the future. Another victim of these austere times no doubt, with exhibitors, delegates and organisations paying closer scrutiny to the value of every penny spent.

Rightly so, but nevertheless, it is a sad reflection of our times, where the opportunities for establishing new connections and developing new relationships is increasingly devolved to a virtual world. Not that I’m against the digitisation of social and professional networks (I belong to enough of them!), but can they ever really replace face-to-face time, or the buzz generated by listening to – and possibly meeting – an internationally respected keynote speaker? It’s a bit like thinking you can get the same value from listing to Elbow’s latest album vs. seeing them in concert (yes, I like Elbow). As Kevin Bacon tells us in his latest EE broadband ad – it’s a ‘no-brainer”!

I’ve been privileged to have chaired the conference these past 4 years, and have worked with some highly respected and knowledgeable colleagues on the Executive Conference Committee in developing the ideas and themes for the conference programme during that time.  But before that I had been a regular delegate for several years, and always considered ‘Online’ to be the premier “must attend” conference if you wanted to learn more about your profession and get some insight into emerging industry trends. The highlight was being invited to speak/present – on two occasions, my first steps onto the conference circuit.

I believe (though I’m sure someone will correct me if my data is incorrect), that this year’s conference and exhibition would have been the 38th since it first started, so missing out on its ruby anniversary by just 2 years. It was the world’s largest information industry conference, regularly attracting over 700 delegates from more than 40 countries. It will be remembered as a showcase for the latest developments in digital information; for promoting strategies for effective information management and deployment of information resources, and for stimulating thinking on the future of the information landscape.

Which leads me to wonder where the many loyal delegates to this event will now go to get insights into the emerging trends affecting their industry. Not everything is in the virtual space and face-to-face networking can never really be replaced by online networks. Quite coincidentally, I picked up this quote today which appears to echo my own sentiments: “Traditional face to face networks where relationships have been established and built up over time provided added validation and expertise that is not easily achieved through electronic networks.”

I will certainly miss the event, but remain hopeful that it might reappear in some format in future years – guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

To conclude, here is a roll call of keynote speakers that I’ve had the privilege to meet and to hear at the conference. With apologies for any omissions, but my memory and archives only go back a far as 2007. I’m happy for any readers of this blog to fill in the gaps.

And finally, a word of thanks to my colleagues on the Executive Conference Committee, to the sponsors, speakers and delegates – past and present – and special thanks to Lorna Candy and her team at Incisive Media, who have ensured the success of this event over many years.

It’s been a great experience!

See also:

 

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Corporate Memory and Personal Knowledge Management – A Dichotomy?

A presentation for the Managing Partners’ Forum. Separating the needs of the individual and those of then organisation has always been an issue for KM and Learning. At times these needs align, sometimes they need to be reconciled and at other times they diverge, particularly when an individual moves to another organisation. The presentation looks specifically at the changing nature of organisations and the emergent power of networks and networking. Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) is a competence we must all learn in order to remain relevant to our organisation. But who ultimately “owns” the ‘corporate’ knowledge that we gather through the workplace networks we nurture and sustain, and do the organisations we work for even recognise the importance of these networks as places for continual learning, knowledge sharing and incubators for innovation?

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PKM and Corporate Memory

I was recently asked to give a talk to a breakfast meeting of the Managing Partners’ Forum (MPF). The focus of the talk was around the possible dichotomy (or misalignment) of the development needs of the individual and the demands of the organisation they work for. At times these needs align, sometimes they need to be reconciled and at other times they diverge. Nothing radical in that statement, but does the organisation believe there is an asset value in the personal networks that the employee develops, maintains, cultivates and nurtures whilst on the payroll, and if so, does it exploit it at the expense or detriment to the employee?  These networks are increasingly likely to traverse the boundaries of the organisations’ directly employed staff, and embrace customers, stakeholders, partners and even competitors. This is what the much-hyped term “Social Business” is really all about.

These “personal” networks (I’ve used quotes because this is at the heart of the issue – is the network really personal or is it a corporate asset?) are sometimes – but incorrectly – assumed to be visible entities, measured in terms of number of Twitter followers, or Facebook friends, or Klout or Peerindex scores, all of which are pretty much irrelevant if trying to quantify the value of “trust”. In actual fact, these networks are often invisible to company leadership, and are blend of personal, real-world relationships and the virtual world of social networks. They are not recorded on any company handbook, they don’t appear on organisational charts, but are very likely to be embedded in the organisation’s business processes. It might not be until the employee leaves the organisation that the real value of these networks is realised. When the ties are broken, chaos can ensue.

The other side of this coin is where perhaps the organisation does recognise the value of these informal networks and relationships, internal and external, and sets about exploiting them. I think this point is effectively communicated in the quotes I’ve borrowed (with permission) from Helen Blunden:

I felt that my network, my trusted network which I worked hard to maintain, cultivate, nurture, trust and grow was going to be exploited by other individuals who saw me as their ‘free ride’ to some quick answers.

I look at the culture of the organisation.  If there is a genuine, authentic opportunity to share and learn and be respectful of each other’s networks then I have no problem.  If it is mandated, or if my networks are used, misused or discounted, then I’d question why I’m even working there.

For the time being, I will nurture and maintain my networks but I will be cautious in how mine are used within my organisation and for what purpose. But I’m the one who decides that.

So, no matter how we look at this, the growing importance of networks and networking as both a professional competency and as an organisational asset cannot be overlooked, and leaders need to start taking relationship building into account when considering the value an employee brings to the organisation, and therefore how he/she is rewarded. Time and investment in PKM to develop these skills and competencies is a critical part of this reward mechanism.

The slides I used are embedded below, and also available on Slideshare. The presentation looks specifically at the changing nature of organisations and the emergent power of networks and networking. Personal Knowledge Management (PKM), and particularly the networking element, as a set of competencies we must all learn in order to remain relevant to our organisation. I raise the point about who ultimately “owns” the ‘corporate’ knowledge that we gather through the networks we nurture and sustain but have left it to the audience to ponder this point. Whether or not the organisations we work for recognise the importance of these networks as places for continual learning, knowledge sharing and as incubators for innovation is – I believe – fundamental to the success of the business, but employees need to be aware of the possibility of exploitation, and be ready to answer that question of “who owns your network?”.

As a closing point I posed this question to the audience, which readers here may want to think about. I suspect there may be different answers dependent on where you sit within the organisational structure, which in itself might tell you something about the organisations you work for. Looking down may give a very different perspective to looking up!

What is the predominant culture in your organisation, and does it encourage learning and sharing?

  • Autocratic – We’ll do it this way
  • Bureaucratic – We’re supposed to do it this way
  • Technocratic – It’s best to do it this way
  • Democratic – How shall we do it?

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Social Network Analysis: making invisible work visible.

Social NetworkEveryone is talking about the enormous benefits to be had through collaborative working and better employee engagement. Industry analysts report a 25% improvement in organisational efficiency when companies successfully deploy a collaboration platform. Whether it’s social media or social collaboration, organisations are striving to deliver better value through a more connected workforce and closer engagement with customers and stakeholders. The term ‘social business’ nicely sums up this important development. The paradox is that organisations continue to allocate a significant proportion of their IT budgets on communications infrastructure and ‘social software’ and virtually nothing on systems and tools that can analyse how effective this investment is.

While companies know that social networks are important, most managers don’t understand how these networks really work. These social networks don’t appear on any formal organisation charts, yet can significantly affect performance and innovation. The problems is, how can leaders manage what they can’t see?

Managers may implement collaborative technologies with the vague notion that they will help employees interact more seamlessly and that this will improve the quality of their work. They may plan culture change programmes or apply KM techniques to create “learning organisations” in the hope that promoting open and honest conversations will lead to innovation and performance improvements. Or they may establish communities of practice with the intent of promoting knowledge creation and sharing as well as improving the quality and efficiency of work.

Sometimes these initiatives have the desired effect, but the results are not always positive. Organisations can get bogged down. Decision makers can become so consumed that most of their employees cannot get to them in time to seize opportunities. And individual employees get overloaded with email, meetings and requests for help, to a point where their own work, job satisfaction, and even health are affected.

It seems odd that we’ve accepted this state of affairs for so long, perhaps partially driven by the hype around enterprise collaboration systems that will instantly unlock the previously suppressed creative forces within the organisation. Managers need to take a more targeted approach, based on information about how work is really done within their organisation. The power of a network perspective, whether applied to a group or an individual, lies with the precision this view offers. Managers who target strategic points in social networks can quickly increase an organisation’s effectiveness, efficiency and opportunities for innovation. In networks of any size it is not possible for everyone to be connected to everyone else, nor is it desirable. An indiscriminate increase in connections can be a drag on productivity. A crucial benefit of network analysis often comes from discovering excessive relationships. The discovery can help managers develop ways to alleviate over-burdened people and decrease time-consuming connections.

What else can network analysis reveal? The detail is in the attached paper, but the following is a brief summary of what a well-informed manager could glean from a network analysis approach:

  • Bottlenecks – individuals or groups that provide the only connection between different parts of the network.
  • Number of links – insufficient or excessive links between departments that should coordinate effectively.
  • Degrees of separation connecting all pairs of nodes in the group. Short distances transmit information accurately and in a timely way, while long distances transmit slowly and can distort the information. This can also show the number of nodes that an individual would have to go through to get an answer.
  • Isolation – people that are not integrated well into a group and therefore, represent both untapped skills and a high likelihood of turnover.
  • Highly expert people – that may not be utilised effectively.
  • Individuals whose potential departure might result in the loss of unique knowledge to the organisation.
  • Organisational subgroups or cliques – can develop their own subcultures and negative attitudes toward other groups.
  • Emergent leaders and informal experts.
  • Linking patterns amongst blogs.
  • Emergent communities.
  • Tracking growth of on-line communities.
  • Staff movements and location (e.g. for optimising office use). ‘What if’ analysis can be performed to predict the outcome of your organisational and social change initiatives.

Find out how Social Network Analysis (SNA) can make the ‘invisible work, visible’ (see attached PDF). Having a better understanding of how your networks work is the first step in achieving more effective collaboration and improving workplace efficiency.

I’ve become convinced that how networks work has become an essential 21st Century literacy. Harold Rheingold.

Image courtesy of higyou (Shutterstock)

Social Network Analysis Proposition

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The Evolution Of Social Media And Its Effect On Knowledge Organisation

This presentation examines the industry trends on how social media and social technologies are changing the way that we generate, organise and consume knowledge, and how this is driving emergent digital literacies for knowledge workers.

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There has been a lot of hype around social media, social networks and social business, much of it unhelpful in getting real understanding what this is all about. For some people, “social” will always mean frivolity and time wasting. For others, social media just means marketing and communications.  Predating all of this hype, social learning networks and communities of practice have long existed as ecologies that would encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Off-line knowledge sharing communities have been around since the Middle Ages, where crafts and skills were honed, and perhaps best exemplified by the many Worshipful Companies – from bakers to candle-stick makers!

The evolution of social media over the past several years has made it easier than ever before to find, connect and engage with “experts” and people with similar interests. Enlightened organisations have recognised that investment in social technologies and (most importantly) the organisational change required in order to nurture and embed a collaborative culture, can overcome the limitations of silo’d structures that have traditionally inhibited information flows and opportunities for innovation

This trend was identifies by Andrew McAfee in 2006, who coined the term “Enterprise 2.0” to describe how the strategic integration of social technologies into an enterprise’s intranet, extranet and business processes could improve decision making. This has given new life to learning, sharing and personal development. Enlightened organisations have recognised that investment in social technology and (most importantly) the organisational development that must accompany it in order to nurture and embed a collaborative culture, can overcome the limitations of silo’d structures that inhibit information flows and opportunities for innovation.  However, it’s still unfortunate that in many cases social media platforms are seen as technology projects and not as part of a wider and more embracing strategic organisational development project. It’s only when poor adoption rates become apparent that organisations begin to focus on behaviours,
education and training.

Put simply, we’re all still on the learning curve on how to build and sustain a truly collaborative culture, and must be continually reminded that technology is an enabler and not the solution. The paradox is that most collaboration projects are still IT-led and any involvement from HR or knowledge/information professionals is at best incidental.

In a broader context, the pervasive and ubiquitous availability of social media in almost all aspects of daily life, from the way we communicate, get information, buy and sell, travel, live and learn is adding to the pressure on organisations to provide a more porous interface between internal (behind the firewall) and external services. Knowledge workers are increasingly making their own decisions on what tools, products and services that they need to work more effectively and will become increasingly disaffected if these are not available within the work environment.  We’re already at the point where mobile platforms (smartphones, laptops, tablets) are outstripping sales of traditional desktops, and workers that can’t access social networks such as Twitter or Facebook on their works PC are just as likely to use their Smartphone to get access.  More and more organisations are adapting to this challenge and embracing more mobile and agile working strategies by supporting ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD), with all of the security implications this entails.

This presentation examines the industry trends on how social media and social technologies are changing the way that we generate, organise and consume knowledge, and how this is driving emergent digital literacies for knowledge workers.

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9 Facts Every Creative Needs to Know About Collaborative Teams

See on Scoop.itThe Social Web

The mere presence of other people can boost your performance, and 8 other research-backed findings about collaboration and teamwork.

Stephen Dale‘s insight:

A useful list of evidence-based attributes associated with effective team collaboration.

1. The mere presence of other people can boost your performance.

2. A familiar team has benefits like a home stadium.

3. Virtual teams can outperform face-to-face teams.

4. A balance of extroverts and introverts makes for a better team.

5. Most good teams have one analytic thinker on board.

6. Teams perform better when they include both men and women.

7. There’s a danger of teams splitting into sub-groups.

8. Effective teams depend on “social sensitivity.”

9. The best teams communicate outside of formal meetings.

Are there more?

See on 99u.com

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From Creating To Sense-Making: That’s What Curation Is All About

Effective content curation will help us to focus and make sense of our complex and ambiguous world, to understand context and ultimately to make better decisons.

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See on Scoop.itThe Social Web

curation

Stephen Dale‘s insight:

With almost anyone now able to generate and publish content, finding relevance (signal to noise) is precoccupying knowledge workers everywhere. Sense-making, new media literacy and the ability to understand concepts across a wide range of disciplines are ctitical skills for the content curator in cutting through the noise to find that all important signal. Effective content curation will help us to focus and make sense of our complex and ambiguous world, to understand context and ultimately to make better decisons.

See on www.getmespark.com

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Need To Explain To Others What Content Curation Is? Use This Visual Collection

See on Scoop.itThe Social Web

What is content curation about? Diagram, charts and infographics to make sense of the curation conundrum

 

Stephen Dale‘s insight:

A great collection of visual aids to help explain the concepts of Content Curation.

See on pinterest.com

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