Before your imagination runs wild, I have to tell you that KM and SM are neither women nor men (I’m straight by the way and no, the SM here is not our (Singapore) Senior Minister). Just in case you don’t know, I’m talking about Knowledge Management (KM) and Social Media (SM).
What’s with the blog post title? Many KM purists would consider me as a heretic, for associating KM with SM. So I thought I would make fun of those who don’t consider me as a true KMer. Unlike those KM purists, I see SM as not just a marketing tool. I see it as a KM tool. In fact, I believe SM offers the best of both worlds of marketing and learning.
Every KMer should embrace SM. There is no point keeping the so-called “KM purity”. Just grab whatever that works – and that could be SM.
Consider the following benefits of SM:
- SM offers 24/7 platform for conversations. You can’t manage knowledge without managing conversations. You know that. And you also know that there is a limit on how many times you can hold conversation cafes – or any other face-to-face conversation sessions – for staff. It is unlikely that the management would allow their staff to attend conversation cafes – as and when the staff need it. Don’t despair! You have a choice. You can let the conversations continue in the SM. Staff could discuss, read, share, and reuse contents (knowledge) in SM as and when they need it. Plus, whatever that they’ve discussed and shared in SM can be captured instantly.
- SM provides real-time statistics. There is another issue with face-to-face conversation cafes. Once you hold those conversation cafes, the management would be breathing on your neck and asks you, “What’s your ROI for the conversation cafes?” If you have experienced this, you would know that it feels like someone puts a gun on your head, and tells you to cough out money that you haven’t earned. Again, SM can give you the solution. SM captures some statistics like number of visits, how many times a document has been downloaded, who the active knowledge sharers are. You can easily translate these into ROIs.
- SM helps to filter contents (knowledge). Let’s dream for awhile, and assume that your KM initiative is a wild success. Everyone in the organisation codifies and shares what they know in the knowledge repository (corporate intranet). So far so good, right? But when you are awake, you will be horrified. You have a mountain of contents – which complicates search and retrieval (knowledge reuse). The big problem is, how can you distinguish relevant and quality contents from the rest? SM can help in this regard. Filtering contents in SM works based on “word of mouth”. So if someone finds a content useful, that person will indicate it, for e.g. by using “like” button (in Facebook), or “retweet” button (in Twitter). Others could “amplify” the relevancy and the quality of the content by hitting “like” / “retweet” button as well. Such action enables SM to rank contents based on feedbacks.
- SM offers opportunity for reputation-building. Sharing and learning require incentives. What better incentive is there, than reputation? SM rewards those who share knowledge, initially by awarding them some “self-gratifying” reputation like “top tweet”, number of likes that the content receives. Of course you gain little reputation when your content receives high number of likes / retweets once in awhile. But you can grow your reputation if you can consistently contribute quality contents. Sooner or later, you will be recognised as an “expert” – and people would be more willing to listen to what you have to say.
- SM is an “open space”. You can’t arm-twist people to share their knowledge. Knowledge sharing has to be voluntary – which is why SM is the perfect platform. It allows people to contribute as and when they want to, and to seek knowledge as and when they need to – without obligations.
Yeah, I know KM is about people. Technology doesn’t matter. blah blah…
- I’m not saying that conversation cafes (face-to-face sessions) are not important. It’s centainly useful to hold face-to-face sessions regularly to build relationship. What I’m saying is, you can’t run face-to-face sessions as often as you’d like, because people are hired so that their bosses can see them working. You and I can have a debate on whether having conversation is considered work, but the fact is the bosses won’t consider it as work no matter what. That’s sad! but get over it and move on.
- Technology is KM enabler, but it doesn’t mean you can do KM without technology. I just don’t understand how some KMers can conclude that KM is possible without technology. They must be some dinosaurs. You see, in absence of technology: (i) you can only exchange / share knowledge with people near you; (ii) searching and retrieving knowledge / information are laborious; (iii) knowledge silos are everywhere; (iv) there are fewer opportunities to build reputation – which translates to fewer incentive to shares knowledge (and more incentives to hoard knowledge).
SM offers solution to many KM challenges. Open-up to possibilities that SM offers, or risk failing your KM initiative. The choice is yours.