Tagging Applications & People

Mike Gotta writes about the potential uses of tagging in enterprises in his blog Collaborative Thinking. He writes about how “application centric” tags as compared to “content centric tags” can help. He envisions using tags/tagging in two broad ways:

1. As an intelligence gathering and routhing mechanism-Tagging Applications

2. Tagging People

Quoting from the post:Tagging as a type of speech and conversation is an emerging area of social software research with some examples within consumer-oriented services. Tags applied to people provide anecdotal information that might not be captured in formal applications.

Building on this view, I feel tags would play a key role in capturing the context of exceptions and ensuring that it gets routed to the right people. Handling exceptions is a major cause of operating expenses in organizations. John Hagel III and JSB write about this in detail in their new book.

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Innovation-Bottom Up

John Vinsor points us to an article in the NY Times titled Here’s an Idea:Let Everyone Have Ideas. Very intersting story on how Rite Solutions, a software company engages its employees in the innovation process. Quoting from the article: “… they focus on an internal market where any employee can propose that the company acquire a new technology, enter a new business or make an efficiency improvement. These proposals become stocks, complete with ticker symbols, discussion lists and e-mail alerts. Employees buy or sell the stocks, and prices change to reflect the sentiments of the company’s engineers, computer scientists and project managers — as well as its marketers, accountants and even the receptionist.

One of the products that emerged from this system accounts for 30% of their sales now. This is a nice example of how engaging employees in the innovation process and allowing them to self-select into projects that they are passionate about (which also would result in tangaible benefits at the end of the day) can create value. This is Co-creation of Value by engaging employees in new ways.

KM Is Also About Employee Sentiment

Work done by Nick Bontis and Jac Fitz-enz addresses how aligning good HR/OD policies with KM impacts business performance.

Quoting some interesting findings from the paper:

employee sentiment, as defined by satisfaction,motivation and commitment, has far-reaching positive impacts on intellectual capital management, knowledge management and ultimately business performance.”

Employee commitment has a positive influence on knowledge generation (+ 0.491). Knowledge integration is preceded by process execution (+ 0.394) and is followed by knowledge sharing (+ 0.262). Finally, knowledge sharing will occur, if value alignment (+ 0.285) is evident, and this can lead to a reduction of human capital depletion.”

Managing employee sentiment seems to be at the heart of a successful KM initiative.Perhaps this is the reason why organizations without a “formal” KM program still manage to flourish.(??)
All this makes me think if we are asking the right questions when we begin a KM program.
It seems a major part of change management that needs to be handled during such initiatives should be geared towards managing employee sentiment – I would even look at a starting KM initiative as an opportunity to understand employee sentiment and see how the KM initiative by itself can positively influence it. I feel when loose knit structures like communties become central and when “responsible autonomy” ( From ” The New Organisation” – Economist) becomes the order of the day we would understand this better.

From the internet to the intranet

When we try to leverage successful collaborative tools on the internet like blogs, wikis and social bookmarking within enterprises we realize that the “enterprise” is a smaller beast with very different and difficult dimensions to address. Is scale important for the succesful adoption of social software? If scale isn’t important, how easy or difficult is it for organizations to build a flat knowledge ecosystem like Wikipedia to replace its “walled garden” KM systems? Would it be feasible for organizations to allow employees to self-select themselves into activites within these flat systems? What do you think are the other enablers and disablers of social software in enterprises?

Wiki Best practices

If you are trying to use Wikis successfully in your enterprise you may want to follow developments on eastwikkers.
They are running a series titled 33Wikis. Quoting from the site: “Each day — for 33 days — we will focus on one wiki, and we will briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we can all learn from it.”

Amazon Product Conversations

Amazon has started customer discussion pages for products. Thanks to Steve Rubel for pointing this out.First it was review pages, then product wikis and now this. Interesting experiments in engaing the customer and seeing how customer knowledge and communties can co-construct experiences around products that they sell. By the way, Prof.Venkat Ramaswamy of the Ross School Of Business,University Of Michigan, has been working on the idea of Co-Creation Of Experiences.Customer Communities are a key part of his framework.

Moral Versus Economic Incentives For Knowledge Sharing

I have been reading Freakonomics over the past week and am intrigued by the author’s comparison of moral and economic incentives.One of the examples that stands out is understanding the motivation behind blood donations.The reasearch discovered that when people are given a small stipend for donating blood rather than being praised for their altruism they tend to donate less blood. Is there something to learn from this while designing incentive schemes for Knowledge sharing and collaboration. They go on to ask an interesting question:

What if blood donors had been offered $50, or $500, or $5000?Surely the number of donors would have increased dramatically?”

But then, they speak about the “dark side” of such incentives as well. Quoting from the book:
If a pint of blood were suddenly worth $5000 dollars….They might literally steal blood at knife point.They might pass off pig blood as their own.

While incentivizing knowledge sharing and collaboration it is important to find the “golden mean” if you will. Ideally we need to build schemes that rely on peer recognition and self-satisfaction. This needs to be augmented with more tangible incentives that are neither too less or too much. Too much of reliance on tangible incentives would mean people may steal knowledge and credit . Too less of it may dampen the inherent willingness of people to contribute. Are there moral incentives or disincentives for people to share knowledge is an important question. I also feel if economic incentives are a side effect of more sustainable moral incentives there is a better chance that the scheme may work. For instance, if you were to make heroes out of people who exhibit the right kind of knowledge sharing behaviour, this may improve their visibility in the organization and give them a feeling of having been recognized(moral incentive). This in turn may lead to quicker promotions, better career path etc., which have direct economic incentives. Economic incentives need to build on the more sustainable moral incentives.