The Value of Knowledge Communities

The Value of Knowledge Communities

By Kathy Barton
Senior VP, Digital Marketing/Social Media

If you’re like me, you’ve been involved in at least one knowledge management project.  It starts out with high hopes and stretch goals, and is usually in response to:

  • The crazy amount of time it takes to find out how certain issues or tasks were handled in the past, particularly for a given client
  • The loss of critical personnel and knowledge only they had
  • One too many examples of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing

Unfortunately, 80% of knowledge management implementations fail to meet their objectives.  Information gets loaded into the database, but then gets outdated. It takes a lot of work to keep it up, and it tends to be what is known as explicit knowledge, or information that can be captured, written down and presented in documents and databases.  But what we really want to have access to is what Bob has in his head.  You know Bob.  He’s that guy at every company who is the go-to source for whatever you need to know, although his/her name may not be Bob.  This tacit knowledge, or that critical information that experts have in their heads, is much more difficult to document or codify in a database.  But it’s exactly what we want to know, because it has context.

Fortunately for us, social media tools are built for sharing exactly this kind of tacit knowledge.  And just about everyone is familiar with them, whether it’s Facebook or LinkedIn or YouTube.  This has led to a new type of knowledge management: knowledge communities. Knowledge communities sit at the intersection of knowledge management and social media communities. They combine social media tools and knowledge management principles in a dynamic environment where people can collaborate, share information, and organically create an evolving and up-to-date knowledgebase that can be used for both internal and external communities.

The power of social media lies in transforming the conversation within an organization or with its clients from a one-way conversation, to a two-way conversation, and then to a multi-dimensional conversation.  A multi-dimensional conversation creates a community, where members are sharing knowledge, ideas and best practices – and creating a new corporate asset, a knowledgebase. This knowledgebase is searchable, ever-evolving, and stays with the organization.

This aspect of the value of social media is one that many organizations seemed to have missed, and yet it is a tailor-made solution to so many organizational challenges: breaking down silos of information; sharing information across timezones and geographies; easily locating the solutions to problems that have been solved before; retaining intellectual capital when staff leave or retire.  And it’s a whole lot easier to manage than structured knowledge management systems. It can also help build relationships across an organization, or between an organization and its partners, clients or distributors. After all, that’s what social media was designed for:  building relationships.  Knowledge communities build relationships in a community whose purpose is to share knowledge. After all, “knowledge is not a dead pile of facts . . but the outcome of a dynamic interaction with the world at large, and more importantly, the other people in it.”*

*quote from Stowe Boyd, CKO, Knowledge Capital Group

To learn more: attend this important webinar –  Knowledge Communities: “The Value-Add of Private Social Communities” Webinar sponsored by ISM and Mzinga, Tuesday, Oct. 14. Register Now