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

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What Is Happening with KM? The Shift to Social Computing

In a recent weblog post Tom Godfrey was wondering what was happening in the world of Knowledge Management as he was not seeing anything inspiring for a few weeks now. And while thinking some more about that particular weblog post I just couldn’t help thinking about a recent article I bumped into that clearly indicates a strong shift in the way Knowledge Management, Communities of Practice and Collaboration have been perceived so far and where they are potentially starting to head to thanks to the help of social software and Web 2.0 related technologies. The article itself is titled The Shift to Social Computing by Dion Hinchcliffe and you can find it over here.

That particular very nicely written article by Dion actually puts into perspective where the focus in Knowledge Management should be placed from now onwards, if not before all along. We are no longer talking about organisations, or whatever other hierarchical / mechanical groups, pushing for KM; we are now talking that it is actually the communities themselves the ones that will be pulling everything together and get people to share their knowledge and collaborate with one another making use of that social software that Web 2.0 has been inspiring so far. Yes, indeed, what Dion mentions as Social Computing.

In that article you would be able as well to see listed the three main principles he mentions as responsible for the shift to Social Computing:

  1. “Innovation is moving from a top-down to bottom-up model
  2. Value is shifting from ownership to experiences
  3. Power is moving from institutions to communities”

I must say that while going through this same list of principles it reminded me of another weblog post I created some time ago titled Useful Distinctions in Social Software – Where Passion, Trust and Involvement All Meet where you can see how it is that passion, trust and involvement that helps knowledge workers break that command and control attitude from the hierarchical business and allow themselves to become members of different communities and share what they know with others going beyond whatever the organisation(s) they may belong to.

However, and while all this is happening there is something equally important and crucial that we should not forget about. From the very beginning and while KM was following a much more traditional and hierarchical method where the focus was on the explicit knowledge exchange and the different organisations themselves we should not fall into the same trap and identify that this shift is all about the tools themselves, once again, but in this case related to the Web 2.0 offerings. We need to ensure that we go beyond that. That we just make use of Web 2.0 technologies as powerful enablers, not the end result, that would allow people come together and share their knowledge and collaborate with other community members. Yes, indeed, we need to ensure that the focus is in the right place: the people and their tacit knowledge.

Thus I think we are witnessing exciting times ahead of us in the KM world, but then again, are we ourselves ready as well to make that cultural shift ? You decide.

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4 comments

  1. I liked this post, and the others you have written about the phenomenon of people self-organizing in teams rather than looking for guidance from a command-and-control superstructure. For the past few years I have been working on a new approach to collaboration within distributed teams that are self-organized, even viral in nature. I just started public beta testing of the software, and I would be happy to get your views on what we are doing. You can find out more at http://www.kerika.com. thanks, Arun

  2. Thanks a lot, Arun, for dropping by and welcome ! I really appreciate the feedback and would be more than happy to take a look into Kerika. I have just been going through the web site and it surely looks very very interesting. Thus I have now downloaded the beta client for Windows and over the next few days I will be trying it out and then I will create a new weblog post over here sharing my thoughts and views on the client itself. Thus stay tuned !

    Thanks again for the feedback !

  3. An excellent — and relevant — post. Especially for my job at Aelera.com.

    However, I want to balance your statement that “we should not fall into the same trap and identify that this shift is all about the tools themselves” by quoting my colleague Aw Kong Koy: “Without technology, there is little new in knowledge management.”

    BTW, the flickr Flash thingy gets in the way of typing comments at times!

    Phil

  4. Thanks, Phil, for the feedback comments and for the different links ! Quite interesting reads !

    Actually, Aw Kong Koy’s quote may be quite accurate actually, but there is no denying that Knowledge Management has already existed way before technology was there and seeing how things have developed over the last few years I tend to think that over focus on it has actually done a lot more harm than benefit the state of things in KM. I am sure that even if technology would not have been there KM would still have survived quite all right. In a different shape, perhaps, indeed, but it would still be alive and kicking. Why? More than anything else, and above all, because of the human factor, which is basically what is bringing back KM into play right at this moment with the social software push. That way more and more people are seeing the huge benefits from applying KM to their businesses (And why not? their own personal lives) and all and for the first time it looks like technology is not the primary focus, which is good.

    Nevertheless, and with all that said, I must say, indeed, the best thing would be to have a balance between the two in order to get the best out of both of them and not having to worry about why such and such KM initiative didn’t work. And somehow I feel, too, that this time around it may work. At least, social computing is trying out real hard and it may eventually pull it together.

    Regarding your feedback on the Flickr flash badge I am not sure what is that happening since I am not able to reproduce it. It may be perhaps an issue with your screen resolution not being very high and then getting in the way. I would appreciate if you could send me an e-mail with a screen shot of what it would look like to you and then from there I will have a look and see what I can do. Thanks for letting me know about this. Appreciated.

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