The Two Halves of KM And Why I Partially Agree with Don Tapscott’s View on KM

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?

Greg Smith, The Secret of Viral, And The Chamber of Engagement

This article was published in Social Media Today on 18 March 2012 by the same author.

Check this out: Greg Smith, a vice president in Goldman Sach, posted the reason for quitting his job in the New York Times. And said that his former boss was at fault for the deteriorating corporate culture. Goldman, he said, cares more about profit than its customers.

Greg Smith stories went viral on the internet. And scores of career consultant throw their hat into the ring by offering opinions on career management. Did Greg Smith commit a career suicide? You bet. Whatever Greg Smith does in the future, it won’t be related to the banking industry. His banking career is over!

I totally agree with Amber Mac, a respectable career consultant, on why you and I shouldn’t follow Greg Smith’s example. Like Amber Mac said in the article, you should quit your job gracefully when you know it is over. And one way to do so, is to keep your (negative) opinion about the job to yourself. Just because you want to quit, it doesn’t mean you have to burn the bridge.

Since this blog isn’t about career management, I’d like to offer social business’ perspective to Greg Smith’s story. There are two thought bubbles that pop up in my head when I read the story: (1) Why did Greg Smith’s story go viral? What’s the secret sauce of viral stories?; (2) What should be the platform for real conversations between management and rank-and-file staff?

The Secret Sauce of Viral Stories

Greg Smith’s story is by no means unique. Watch the above video clip. And you would see another man, Joey DeFrancesco, who also quit his job publicly. And like Smith’s story, his story went viral in the internet. This begs the question: Why the seemingly ordinary stories of people lives can go viral?

The main reason is empathy. We can empathise with both stories because of the bigger picture. DeFrancesco quits because the unfair treatment that hotel employees usually receive. He becomes the voice of all hotel employees who silently suffers from the gross mistreatment. While Smith quits because the deteriorating corporate culture in Wall Street (read: greed).

Those reasons appeal to many people. And because we can relate to Smith’s story and DeFrancesco’s story, we feel the urge to like or to forward the story to our friend, colleagues, or family members. That’s how the story went viral.

So the secret sauce of viral story is the emotional hooks that the story has. Can you position the story to appeal to many people? Can you make people feel emotional through your story? If you can do that, then there is a high chance that your story will go viral.

Social Intranet is The Right Chamber for Employee Engagement

Greg Smith and Joey DeFrancesco wouldn’t be folk heroes if what they say doesn’t make any sense. Organisations need to do more about employee engagement than just conducting the infamous corporate climate survey.

It is unfortunate that Smith and DeFrancesco used the wrong media to tell their story. In the age of social intranet and social organisation, they could have expressed their displeasure within the corporate walls, i.e. via internal blogs, discussion forum or video repositories.

If they are brave enough to tell their opinion in social media, then surely they are brave enough to share it with all their colleagues. The management could then conduct closed-door honest conversation with the relevant people.

No matter how bitter they are, Smith and DeFrancesco should have given the management a chance to tell their side of the story. By going public, they are killing off the opportunity to do real dialogue between them and the management. The social intranet, not the social media, is the right chamber for engagement and conversation.

Arguably, a real dialogue is only made possible if the management doesn’t punish people for expressing their opinion in the social intranet. But at the very least – you, I, and other rank-and-file staff, should extend our hand and give the management an opportunity to prove that they care about employee satisfaction.

When all else fails, look for another job! Discreetly of course.

Comments? Do you agree with me?

The Pursuit of Happiness: How Gamification Unleash Total Engagement

I was in barcamp Shanghai on 3rd March 2012, to give a talk, titled the Pursuit of Happiness: How Gamification Unleash Total Engagement.

In this talk, I shared how engagement has become the new competitive advantage. Alas, many organisations are clueless about engaging their people. This is about to change, however, thanks to a new emerging field called gamification.  Successful organisations are those who know how to gamify the workplace to engage their people.

Here is the video clip of my talk.

And here is the presentation slides

If you like this talk, then stay tuned. I will come up with a more exciting version of this talk for my TEDx talk this month.

Social Organisation – Definition and Three Advantages

It’s 2012 folks! This year marks the end of era where “average-joe” intranet rules, where SOP is preferred over empowerment and engagement, and where customers keep mum about their dissatisfaction. And this year means screw business-as-usual! Organisations have to transform themselves to be social organisation or face slow-painful-death.

What is Social Organisation (a.k.a. Social Business/Enterprise)?

So what is social organisation anyway? You probably heard of the term and confuse it with social business (social enterprise) - a term made popular by a nobel price winner, Muhammad Yunus. According to Yunus, social business is a cause-driven business ala Tom Shoes (Tom Shoes commits itself to give a free pair of shoes to those in need, for every pair of shoes purchased).

Yunus’ concept on social business is beautiful. The world certainly needs Yunus’ social business model to beat poverty. Too bad, the IT and KM folks use the same term to mean organisations that use social technology, i.e. social media and social intranet, as competitive advantage (for examples, case studies, and definition, please read how IBM consulting describes social business).

For the sake of clarity, in this blog, I will use the term social organisation to refer to businesses empowered by social technology. I will avoid using the term social business/enterprise - unless I want to talk about Yunus’ version of social business (very unlikely as microfinance is not my passion. Social technology is). I suggest you do the same too.

Alas using the term social organisation doesn’t end the confusion. Some experts like two Gartner analysts: Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. Mcdonald, use the term to refer to organisations empowered by social media application to business. Others like a Forbes contributor: Fred Cavazza, use the term to refer to organisations empowered by both social media and social intranet.

So, which version of social organisation is correct? It depends on what you believe in. I believe corporate (internal) and consumer communications are converging, and thus I think social organisations have to be supported by social media and by social intranet. So I agree with Fred Cavazza’s definition of social organisation.

I also think the main purpose of social technology is to build communities. Combining these thoughts, I get the following definition of social organisation:

Social Organisation is organisation that maximises the use of social media (technology) and social intranet, to improve consumer and employee engagement and to build communities for innovation.

Why Organisations Have to Be Social Organisations?

Three big benefits underpin the need to become social organisations:

First, improved ability to engage employees, esp. the gen-Ys. Gen-Ys are moody bunch. This generation was brought up with a belief that the sky is the limit. They have a high (often unrealistic) sense of entitlement to pursue their dream/passion. The Millennials demand empowerment and bask in entrepreneurship working environment. Social organisation offers them such environment – an environment where they can be engaged and have the freedom to pursue their passion.

Second, improved ability to build communities. Social technologies are great community-building tools. They allow people with similar passion to “gather” and connect beyond the physical limitation, i.e. geographical boundaries and time difference. In other words, social technology is a catalyst for community-building. And we all know that passionate communities are breeding grounds for collective learning and innovation.

Third, ability to build relationship with social customers. Many people use social media like Facebook, Twitter, not only to improve the way they interact and live, but also to give recommendations and voice-out displeasure. Organisations would be wise to maintain presence in social media, to engage the social customers, to capture their testimonials, and to address their concern real-time.

Any thoughts? Write them down in the comment box below.

Recommended Readings:

Bradley, A., J., and McDonald, M., P. (2011). The Social Organisation – Chapter 1: The Promise of Social Organisations. Harvard Business Press.

Cavazza, F. (2012). The What and How of Social Business. Forbes.

N.A. (n.d.). Social Business. IBM.

Neisser, D. (2011). Move Over Social Media; Here Comes Social Business. Fast Company.