Last Friday, and over at Line56, one of my fellow IBM colleagues, Robert Swanwick (a.k.a. Swan), created a superb article titled Reputation Management that I thought I would comment on further over here since I feel that it fits in quite nicely with a couple of the subjects I get to discuss over here: Knowledge Management and Social Software. Swan’s article is, indeed, a must-read for anyone who gets to collaborate and share knowledge with others because in each of those different interactions we tend to perform on a daily basis there is actually one single and fundamental factor that would make that connection work or not, and that is reputation management. Yes, how much do you trust that someone to be able to collaborate with that other person. Fascinating stuff that is grabbing more and more momentum now, specially from the perspective of the impact that social software has been having within the enterprise thus far.
But let’s just comment on a couple of interesting quotes from Swan’s articles so that you get to see where I am coming from:
"With the explosion of Web 2.0 where web environments are fed by the inputs of end users, rating is becoming much more popular."
And it would probably become ever so much more popular as the months / years go by. But in this case don’t just think about the traditional way we have understood rating (i.e. Amazon’s, eBay’s, etc.), because, believe it or not, all these social software tools available out there for us to explore are actually introducing a new way for us to rate others with our own criteria. And that criteria is actually going to be if we actually trust that person good enough to want to dive in further and collaborate with them. And here is where the twist comes in because for a number of years knowledge workers didn’t have much of a chance to build different relationships that would focus on the persona as such but more about the task at hand.
And that is why over time it would take folks a huge amount of time to get to build further up on their trust levels with others because although they may well be very good at something in particular they may not be so at whatever else and, as we all know, collaboration has gotten much richer than ever before thanks to the Web 2.0 movement, so that is why knowledge workers want more. Yes, indeed, social software can actually do that big time ! Think, for instance, about your usage of social bookmarks, tagging, weblogs, wikis, podcasts, vodcasts, etc. etc. With each of these you are actually building up an online persona for yourself where you let others know about you, your ideas, your expertise, your interests, etc. etc. And the way you are going to be rated is not a system you have out there where people can physical tick a box and off you go but this actual rating would be more of the like of people sticking around your online persona and keeping up to date with you, through your weblog, your participation in wikis, your tagclouds from the different systems you use, etc. etc. That is actually going to be a new way of rating knowledge workers and their impact in the current business environment. That is actually how we are all going to start trusting more our colleagues and collaborating and sharing knowledge with them much closer than ever before.
And as such one thing that knowledge workers would need to realise is that for the first time ever each of us have got the opportunity to influence that rating in our favour by tailoring and building further up our own online persona(s). So next time you bookmark a site online, or you participate in a wiki, or create your next episode for your podcast or a weblog post remember that you are building further on that trust people have put on you to get to know some more from you and collaborate further with. As you well know, building trust with other knowledge workers is a hard work and enduring task that takes quite a lot of energy, effort and commitment. It is totally worth it, for sure, since we all do it and over time we try to build further up on it. Yet it only takes a split second to damage it for good. And since you are in control you might as well think twice what kind of persona do you want to make available out there for folks to get to know you, because in most cases it is actually that persona in the social software world that is likely to set up the pace knowledge workers would want to collaborate and stay in touch with you. I am sure you can think of a number of good examples in this matter.
"How well we are performing is best determined by the aggregate of all those people with whom we interact"
Oh, yes, this is exactly why social software is changing the business world forever. Because it is through our usage of that Web 2.0 that we would be able to control what we share and what we don’t and how we would want to connect with others and it would be those different connections and relationships that would help build up a much greater focus on something that I have talked over here for some time now but that nowadays has been grabbing much more attention and focus, and that is the creation and sustainability of communities of folks who value their connections and who, through that trust and virtual rating, get their jobs done in less time with much more quality, and surely with a lot less effort.
Reputation management is certainly going to become a topic with lots of importance as time goes by and you bet that social software is going to be one of the main movements influencing such change and, better still, we would see how that social software is helping communities reach beyond and impact on every single aspect of the business world due to that wisdom of crowds we have all be hearing about all along and which reputation management will continue to nurture from here onwards.