Last week you would remember how I created a follow up post from a weblog conversation both Dennis McDonald and myself have been having about expertise location. Over the weekend Dennis shared some further commentary that I will get to in a minute as well, but I thought I would also let you know about another article he has created around the same subject but this time around wondering about what happens when communities do not have the expertise to help answer seekers’ questions, which, I guess, is the natural step up on the ladder whenever you cannot get answers from both knowledge workers and the communities they belong to. So what do you do then?
Dennis comes to ask this very same question in this particular quote:
"But what happens when the people you know — the members of one of your "communities" — don’t possess the appropriate expertise you need to solve a problem? What if they’re not available?"
Well, no, not necessarily, you don’t start calling around. You have got better things to do, at least, the way I see it. Yes, indeed, you would get to do some research yourself but in this case with the strong sense of commitment that you are not on your own in order to find that answer. You can actually get the power of the community to help you out. We all know that it is always better if you actually get to collaborate and share knowledge amongst a group as opposed to individually so if that particular community of members cannot provide you with the answers you are asking them for then "put them to work". Ask them to find the answer with you, work together with them, research, collaborate with one another till you find it.
That way not only do you have a guarantee to find the answer a lot quicker, since you would have multiple knowledge workers trying to figure it all out, but at the same time you would also be helping out on strengthening that, already strong, sense of belonging because you would be allowing community members bond with one another by researching on stuff that they may not have encountered before, therefore you find yourself not only working towards finding that answer but also towards building stronger links amongst community members by getting them to engage with you and the rest of the community in trying to find those answers.
All this comes to reality from the perspective where once you belong to a particular community there is always this sense of commitment about wanting to help others whenever they struggle. Why? Because, amongst other things, they share the same passion you do for a particular topic so there is a great chance that if they don’t know the answer they would also be interested in it. At least, that is how most of them would feel. And then you cannot ignore the huge power of achievement once that answer has been found and has been shared with the rest of community to be reused again at a later time. This certainly increases the level of expertise from the community at the same time that it helps create a good feeling of having achieved something as part of the community activities. Something that we all know would have been a lot harder to achieve on your own having to start calling people all over the place without not necessarily knowing where to go.
Thus that is why I tend to agree with Dennis’ comments towards the end of the weblog post when he mentions the following quote:
"It’s appropriate to use technology (including email and workflow management) to help people in a large organization to locate an expert to help them answer a question or solve a problem, especially when the technology helps people to develop and maintain relationships."
Yes, indeed, this is what expertise location and communities as such are all about: helping people develop, nurture, maintain and mature all those different relationships so that they could be reused at some point in time for whatever other activity the community decides to engage with and carry it out with the same level of efficiency, if not better.