Enterprise 2.0 – Unleashing The Collective

Many of the Enterprise 2.0 discussions tend to begin and end with blogs and wikis predominantly. Enterprise 2.0 holds as much promise to improve knowledge sharing within organizations as it does to improve knowledge creation. The Collective as defined by Thomas Vander Wal holds the key to unleash effective knowledge sharing within organizations. At the heart of both the collective and collaborative is the idea of a social object. This post explores one possible way KM/collaboration strategists can leverage the collective and improve knowledge sharing within enterprises.

At a high level the strategy will include the following :

  • Understand Online Behavioral Patterns Outside Work
  • Use Low Cost Probes To Identify These Social Objects
  • Identify Social Objects That Have "Maximum Gravitational Pull"
  • Unleash The Collective Around Social Objects That Matter
  • Build Bridges Between The Old And The New

Understand Online Behavioral Patterns Outside Work

It makes sense to look at the average age of your workforce and the demography in general  to understand how they are using tools in the consumer internet to reach out to friends and family.
You could map out those behavioral patterns, understand organizational objectives pertaining to collaboration/KM and then explore the right kind of tools for deployment. The outcome of this should be a deep understanding of the kind of social objects people are creating outside work. For instance, in the company I work for, roughly 30% of the workforce is on Orkut. An Orkut "Scrap" is a social object that people are very used to outside work. What does this mean to enterprise KM/Collaboration strategists?

Use Low Cost Probes To Identify These Social Objects

While
I don’t have empirical evidence to back this up my experience has been
that there seems to be some relationship between social objects and
organizational culture. For instance in the company I work for, Social
Q&A has grown at an unbelievable pace  while document collaboration
is yet to take off. It is important to quickly iterate and identify the
right social objects that are likely to improve knowledge sharing
within the enterprise. Perhaps these are questions or micro blog entries or discussion forum entries.

Identify Social Objects That Have "Maximum Gravitational Pull"

Understanding online behavior and affinity towards certain social objects presents the opportunity for enterprise KM strategists to evolve a KM/Collaboration strategy around similar social objects within the enterprise.  From the list of all potential social objects identify ones that have maximum gravitational pull. The balance to strike is to identify social objects that have maximum gravitational pull from the end user perspective and at the same time have maximum organizational impact from a knowledge sharing perspective.

Unleash The Collective Around Social Objects That Matter

Enterprise Social Q&A platforms, Enterprise Microblogging
platforms and plain old discussion forums surface different dimensions
of what an enterprise knows collectively. These are not necessarily
collaborative in nature. These are nice examples of  platforms that
enable "collective social
interaction" as Thomas Vander Wal calls it. From a KM perspective, the
collective is as important as the collaborative. The Collective is made
up of "information affinity" based social networks. I either find
someone else subscribing to a feed of my bookmarks or someone
responding to my question and hence we share some affinity towards
subject matter X. Questions become social objects – and this together
with answers,comments, feeds and tags unravel hidden social networks.
Similarly, microblog entries are social objects. In many cases
unleashing the collective has a tremendous impact on knowledge sharing
in the organization. I see collaboration as a catalyst for knowledge
creation and is not necessarily a pre-requisite for knowledge sharing
to happen.

Build Bridges Between The Old And The New

There are usually one or two tools that the workforce uses heavily. Predominantly it is email, though it could be  IM or perhaps even your  company bulletin board. When you work on an adoption strategy it is extremely important to explore ways of making use of the attention in these sweet spots. There are a number of ways of doing this – Some examples:

  • Notifications of updates in wikis/blogs/social Q&A platforms through email/IM
  • Allowing blog posts through email/IM
  • Allowing posting questions to a social Q&A platform via email/IM
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