I stumbled upon Don Tapscott’s article on KM in Mckinsey website. In his interview with Mckinsey, Tapscott reiterated his views that he described in his book: Wikinomics about how social collaboration can boost productivity at work by reducing the need to meet face-to-face.
I liked the way Don Tapscott articulated clearly on the value of KM to the organisation, which is improving productivity though collaborative tools such as wikis, shared calendar, document library, etc. But I think he is being bias towards his own work, which is about promoting the use of collaborative tools at work. He didn’t put enough emphasis on the importance of having quality conversation during face-to-face meeting. He may not see how KM can improve the quality of conversation.
What’s so important about the quality of conversation? Low quality conversation is also a productivity killer! You are probably have experienced being stuck in an unproductive face-to-face meeting where the participants are locked in their respective views and they are unable to decide on the best approach to reach a common goal. In this kind of meeting, you and other participants did not collaborate and did not learn. To put it simple, you and the other participants aren’t practicing KM.
What would happen, if you go ahead and implement the social collaboration tools in the organisation that doesn’t have the habit of high quality conversation, is that you’d only gain few believers (i.e. early adopters) and – even with CEO’s blessing – the practice of using collaborative tools will not spread beyond the small band of believers.
Furthermore, you will not be able to bring the practice of social collaboration to its pinnacle of excellence: Information Findability though best practice Information Architecture and Staff Engagement through active discussion forums, wikis, and blogs. The reason is simple: what the staff practice on face-to-face platform will be “projected” onto social collaboration platform.
Here are some illustrations of behavior projection from face-to-face platform to social collaboration platform:
- No habit of meeting project deadlines? Then forget about using collaborative tools (e.g. shared calendar) because people don’t see the need for using the tools.
- No habit of presenting ideas in coherent manner? Then forget about information architecture because their mindset is fixed on “doing information download and leaving it to the audience to interpret”. People will not embrace the idea of organising information and especially the practice of tagging for future findability. People would just stick to their habit of uploading documents and then forgetting where the documents are stored.
- No respect/trust on others’ ability? Then forget about collaborative tools because they would rather create something new from scratch than build upon others’ work – even if that means they would be unproductive. And people will not seek others’ knowledge in the social collaboration platform because people don’t trust that their colleagues can produce anything that is useful.
I hope I have convinced you that you can’t advocate and successfully inculcate the habit of using collaborative tools if you haven’t inculcate the habit of having good quality conversation. And that you can’t get others to cooperate and to collectively use the collaborative tools unless you cultivate the culture of openness where people are willing to discuss and test new ideas.
You probably have heard the above argument before and are agreeing that cultivating knowledge sharing culture is important. But I’m encouraging you to pay more attention than just cultivating the right culture. I’m talking about having a coherent KM approach. I’m encouraging you to synchronise both parts of KM when implementing KM.
Understand that both parts are meant to reinforce one another. Attempt to implement one without the other, and I can guarantee that you would, at best, achieve partial and limited success. I can guarantee that you would fail most of the times. Link both parts of KM and communicate the interrelation between the two. You will see KM comes to life and becomes part of the organisation’s DNA.
Good luck! Any thoughts?