Melanie Turek has written a very interesting and revealing weblog post over at Collaboration Loop (Worth while subscribing to their Newsletter, by the way, in case you may not have done it already) titled In the Loop, which talks about the fact that sometimes it is not that easy to promote a KM culture within a particular business specially when the main key influential factor is not ready for that adoption: i.e. the people. Indeed, Melanie just lists what she feels are three primary barriers in the adoption of KM and collaboration tools:
- Integration: where she is encouraging the concept of a KM and Collaboration tools suite all integrated into a single focal point of entry, something that I have been advocating myself for some time now as well since it would be a lot less disruptive and distracting having everything you need to collaborate just a click or two away from your screen.
- E-mail: in here she is mentioning how most businesses do actually consider e-mail their main method for collaboration and knowledge sharing. Something that I agree with her is a misleading statement from the perspective where e-mail isn’t indeed a collaboration tool but more a communication tool. If not try to collaborate with several dozens of people on a particular subject through e-mail and see how long it would take you before you give up because of all of the messy interactions. E-mail is great for communicating for sure, but we all know that it does a lousy job in helping promote collaboration.
- Human nature: where she is indicating how some people are not ready just yet to let go their “Knowledge is power” – therefore I do not want to share what I know mentality in order to collaborate and she agrees that if true collaboration is supposed to be taking place this would be the main barrier that would need breaking. And I just couldn’t have agreed more with those comments.
As you go through the article further you actually get to read about a story from one executive who is indicating how despite all efforts put together to instigate a knowledge sharing and collaborative culture some of those folks just “didn’t get it“. That is a great story which in my opinion reflects the fact that knowledge sharing and collaboration doesn’t happen just like that. It needs to be nurtured, sponsored, promoted, facilitated, in short, provoked. In general people would have a tendency not to share what they know with others, unless there is one key fundamental success factor put into place: trust. So in the case of the executive story referenced in In the Loop it is a clear situation people people just didn’t trust the information and knowledge shared just like that but preferred to get to know the person who shared it. And it would be only then when people would be willing to start sharing and collaborating. When they have established that connection with others who they would be willing to share with. Not before.
Thus how do you inspire and provoke that cultural shift where people get to share and collaborate in a much natural and unforced way as what might be happening today in some businesses? In my opinion, one of the strongest key enablers to provoke that change would be through the creation and sustainability of communities. Indeed, they will be the main key primary drivers of that knowledge sharing and collaboration culture. Then, perhaps, through the building of a critical mass within the community (Specially at the early stages) they would be able to break those barriers and start trusting each other as being part of the group who share a common interest for a particular topic. There is no denying either that social software would help enable those communities to break their different barriers put in place and get them to trust each other more, which will then result in that cultural shift towards knowledge sharing and collaborating.
So much so, that in the end, if you see that you have got a group of knowledge workers who are reluctant to get together and share what they know, it may be a good time to look for that common denominator that could well be the spark for the creation of a community of practice which would help get things rolling and from there help facilitate a good environment where everyone would trust each other much more and therefore would be willing to share. It would be only then when that human nature barrier referenced above would disappear. And for good! So is your business making use of communities to break those barriers? Or are you still lacking behind thinking KM was never meant to be for you and your business? You decide.