Over the last couple of weeks you have seen how in a couple of times I have been talking about the importance of social capital and trust in order to help organisations succeed in providing the value add not only to their customers but also to their own employees. Both social capital and trust are the key and crucial components that would make teams, specially virtual teams, stick with one another in order to provide the best atmosphere to get peers to collaborate with one another.
And to follow up further with some additional input on this very same subject I would very much like to quote a couple of important sentences from an article written some time ago by one of the KM gurus, Larry Prusak, but still very relevant nowadays, specially for larger organisations with multiple distributed teams. The article itself is titled How Trust Builds Social Capital – Social Capital and Trust and you can find it here. Let me tell you that if you are looking for some online reference about the subject of social capital and trust Larry’s article is one very good start, indeed !
To give you a little bit more information without having to quote the entire article let me share with you a couple of excerpts that I think are equally important for this particular subject:
“[…] Trust is the greatest lubricant for corporate efficiency. It’s even better than information. Why should anyone do anything with anyone else, if they don’t trust them ? […]”
Indeed, this is one of the main key points about trust in an organisation. People collaborate with others in different areas not because they have been told to do so, but more because they feel they can trust the team they are working with, because if they wouldn’t they would just move on to the next thing, even to the point of quitting the company and look for that comfort zone that trust provides. So if you feel that your team is failing to provide what is supposed to be delivering I would think that one good way to tackle the problem is to find out if team members trust each other or not. And if they don’t find ways to bring that trust and social capital back into play.
“[..] Social capital is strongly dependent on rich durable networks which develop trust, which develop knowledge sharing, develop a sense of reciprocity so that it becomes generalized [..]”
Another great quote and one I have been advocating for quite some time now. One can trust one or more individuals but without the context of a network of colleagues it will not be as effective as what you would expect, which is why it is so important that in order to foster a healthy environment where trust and social capital can flourish you would need to make that work with the creation and maintenance of social groups. Indeed, communities. They are probably some of the most powerful options available to nurture trust and to allow people to develop further their relationships with one another. We all know how much more effective communities are than just individuals in performing different tasks and thinking that they can help people connect with one another is crucial to continue promoting good collaboration habits amongst them. Thus if you were not sure how to bring trust back into the table, think about the possibilities of helping with the creation of a community to increase those trust levels.
“[…]They don’t work necessarily for money. What do they work for? Recognition. Identity. Feelings about your coworkers really count […]”
Exactly ! What an interesting final quote for this particular weblog post. I am sure that more than one of you folks would be agreeing with this subject. Certainly, money is good for paying bills and for reaching certain level of comfort but after a time in a job it wears out and people start looking for something else: that recognition and identity that Larry mentions and the fact that they can get that while belonging to a particular community, or communities, will make it even much more stronger to fight for. We all know that people like to have recognition in what they do, and we all know that working with a group of folks to achieve a common set of goals, a community, will keep people motivated to reach out even further and achieve levels of collaboration and commitment not seen elsewhere.
So as you can see social capital and trust are those key elements that every single group, whether it is a team or a community, should have in order to help promote collaboration within the group and try to achieve the different goals, but one clear thing to remember is that nor tools, nor processes are going to help achieve that. It will be the people who will just try to improve their social capital skills and much more importantly, trust not only what they do, but also what other team members do as part of their job. And communities are a powerful means to achieve that level of perfect collaboration and what everyone of them should also strive for. It is so much more worth it.
Oh, and for those who may be thinking that Knowledge Management is all about the tools and the processes I would like to point you to Larry’s article as well where you will be able to read one of the best definitions of KM you can think of:
“[…] which (Knowledge Management) is people knowing things, sharing what they know, and working with what they know […]”
I doubt I would have been able to choose a much better set of words to deliver that key and powerful message about what KM is. Even today it still remains very relevant and accurate.