E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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Social Networks: More Bubble Than Profit?

I meant to create a weblog post on this particular subject a couple of days ago but things turned out differently and here I am, weblogging about it today. Not long ago, BusinessWeek‘s Alex Halperin created a news article around the subject of the potential business value from Social Networks, specially in the current business environment; the article itself is titled Social Networks: More Bubble than Profit? and you can find it over here. In it it is actually questioned the business value from social networks and social networking tools and throughout the article you would be able to notice some negativity about that potential business value.

While I am not going to deny the risks involved in finding a good and reliable business model making use of whatever the social networking tool (Pretty much like it would happen with whatever other offering, service, tool, etc.) I have always felt that the business value of social networks is somehow already justified by the many benefits that is has put together and added to Knowledge Management. Let me explain.

As we all know KM has always been very much focused on facilitating the harvesting of explicit knowledge, above tacit knowledge. However, throughout the years it has become more evident that just focusing on explicit knowledge is perhaps not the one and only option. In fact, all the other way around. There is a need as well to focus on the tacit knowledge, on the social capital skills, in short, in the social networking aspects of knowledge sharing and collaboration.

And at this point in time it is where I feel that the business value from social networks would become much more noticeable because they are the ones that are helping knowledge workers to be much more passionate, trustworthy and committed in sharing what they do with others. It is that social capital that breaks the barriers and helps people collaborate closer with one another. Imagine how many times knowledge workers have been able to connect with one another because of some pictures they may have shared or seen in Flickr; or imagine how many more connections people have been able to make while being able to find out about each other’s online bookmarks they may have been sharing for some time; or think how much more tacit knowledge people have been able to share in public web collaborative spaces like Wikis or weblogs helping build up different knowledge repositories that could then help provide businesses that cutting edge of reusable deliverables that would put together both explicit and tacit knowledge. And the list of examples could go on and on and on.

I am not going to deny that it is not going to be an easy task to be able to measure the value of KM through the usage of social networks but I am sure that the
initial steps have already been taken to get things started. Allowing knowledge workers to make use of their social networks helps them become much more effective and efficient in what they do, not only as individuals but also as members of the communities they are part of. And the main discipline that would benefit from the emergence of social networks with the existence of the so-called Web 2.0 is, no doubt, Knowledge Management. Only thing though that we would need to take care of is help KM prove that value to the business. Not an easy task, I know, but doable.

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