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

From the blog

Making Use of Virtual Worlds to Improve Your Social Capital Skills – Mardi Grass Parties

Today has been one of those days where my regular social networking activities in general have been rather light and slow, more than anything else because of a rather hectic day with meetings and conference calls, along with one other special event I was invited to participate in and which I couldn’t ignore just like that. One of my fellow IBM colleagues came to me a few weeks back and asked me whether it would be possible for me to come and participate today in a special community event, as one of the speakers, where I could spend around 30 minutes talking about communities and the impact of social computing in helping improve collaboration and knowledge sharing to bring innovation into a new level. And all of that through those very same communities.

Like I said, I just couldn’t turned down such an offer and decided to block my calendar for a good chunk of the afternoon to ensure I was all prepared and ready to go. This was a special event on its own as we had a full agenda with various different topics and taking place not only in real life, through a standard audio conference, but also in one of the most popular virtual worlds around: Second Life.

Yes, that is right. To me, it was the first time I was ever on a Second Life virtual event at the same time that it was conducted through the traditional teleconference. More than anything else to try to accommodate the high demand from an extensive list of participants. And on top of that a few Instant Messaging chats going on. In short, multi-tasking took a new form for me today! And I loved it!

During the course of 30 minutes I actually shared with the audience some of the reasons as to why social computing is shifting the way we connect and collaborate in communities. We are no longer working with smaller teams in a same location. Quite the opposite. Most of us are all distributed not only within the same country, but also within the same geographies and timezones, which makes it a bit more difficult to connect and collaborate than ever before. This is one of the reasons why communities and their usage of social software is very important. If not crucial.

At the same time I mentioned how through the usage of social networking communities have got the opportunity to bring forward conversations that will help share informal knowledge, i.e. the know-how, the tacit knowledge most community members have, in such a way that knowledge that before was not being captured, now has got the perfect chance of being spread around and shared across the board. And all of that thanks to social software!

From there onwards I mention how perhaps one of the most key and fundamental success factors from the adoption of social software by communities is how they help knowledge workers build up their skills and trust levels in such a way that people get to share more with those who they trust (We have always been doing / saying that!), which means that one of the strongest selling points from social computing is actually its capability of helping you, and your community members, enrich and empower your social capital skills, perhaps one of the most neglected areas from Knowledge Management for the last 10 years!

And, finally, in the last few minutes of the conversation I shared a few tips on how to get started from a community perspective with the adoption of social software, going from starting small pilots, helping community members try and test out a number of different tools, after providing some training, education and facilitation, and getting a critical mass of early adopters figuring out which one(s) the community is going to stick around with for a while.

We did have the chance to go through some Q&A with some interesting comments, and from there onwards, now that the keynote speaker and speaker sessions were done, we all wandered off to a good number of poster sessions that were very much related to communities and community building activities in general.

And from there onwards, given the special occasion we were all celebrating the organisers of the event decided to throw together a lovely Mardi Grass party where we could all hang out, have a (Virtual) drink or two, with plenty of dancing with various types of music, and some lovely conversations. Just like in real life! What a better way of spending our time in improving our social capital skills than hanging out at the party!! Look at that, as a result of today’s event and the party afterwards, I am going to be involved with a couple of communities providing them with some extensively education and resources on various social computing tools.

Ha! And then they say there isn’t value in using social networking and virtual worlds in a business environment to help drive new revenue. Well, you may need to think again…

Either way, I just wanted to share with you now some some of the photos that were taken during the Mardi Grass party. There were plenty more, but I just couldn’t get the heads up to share them over here just yet. But from those that I could, I have already uploaded the pictures into my Flickr account:

I told you, I mentioned a little while ago I was going to become much more active this year around the virtual worlds space, mainly Second Life, and all along I knew there was a reason. Today I saw it. Today I saw the way community members can connect with one another much easier and establish the right level of conversations and get to know one another and trust each other to collaborate and share their knowledge more with one another. And all that thanks to virtual worlds, like Second Life! … Social computing at its best!

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