posted 29 Feb 2008 in Volume 11 Issue 6
The Gurteen Perspective
KM (2.0) goes social
By David Gurteen, Gurteen Knowledge
WITH THE advent of social tools, KM is poised to undergo a transformation. I’d like to take a brief look at what is going on.
In the early days, KM was primarily about capturing all the messy unstructured information in an organisation, making it searchable and easily accessible to employees. It’s still what most companies mean when they talk about KM – so much so, that many IT managers think this is all there is to KM.
KM in its techno-centric form grew up with the development of the internet, organisational intranets and portals and the widespread use of electronic mail, Microsoft Office, corporate search engines and the like. It is fundamentally technology driven, usually by the IT department. It is centrally controlled and top-down in nature.
Techno-centric KM is necessary and useful but is not without its problems. Many early KM systems were designed to capture corporate information by requiring people to enter stuff into databases or to create personal profiles to help people find expertise. But too often employees did not see the value in this and such systems failed.
But meanwhile other organisations were starting to practice a form of KM that relied not on technology but on soft tools that enabled people to share information face-to-face – tools such as communities of practice, after action reviews and peer assists.
This people-centric form of KM evolved in parallel with the techno-centric variety and is more about informal learning, collaboration and inter-personal knowledge sharing. The aim is to lead to improved decision making, greater creativity and innovation. Techno-centric KM is more about efficiency – being able to quickly find the right information when you need it.
But quite separately, while all of this was taking place, social tools were starting to evolve on the web: blogs, wikis, social tagging and the like. These tools are very different from traditional corporate knowledge-sharing tools. They were originally not developed by the large software developers such as Microsoft or IBM, though that is changing. They are often open source and free or low cost..
Social tools put knowledge-sharing power in the hands of the users themselves and it’s this to a great degree that has accounted for their rapid evolution, uptake and success.
As these new tools took hold – people started to talk about Web 2.0. A new web – dominated by social tools and the philosophy they embedded – turning the web of Web 1.0 from a publishing medium to a two-way communication and knowledge sharing medium – the so called ‘participatory web’.
And now as these tools migrate into organisations, people are talking about
Now it wasn’t KM people who drove this development. It wasn’t the traditional KM IT vendors and it wasn’t the KM managers and workers within organisations. It was a bunch of enthusiastic renegades on the web as well as a few corporate renegades who could see where things were heading.
But KM managers and others are starting to see the power of social tools within organisations as personal KM tools. And a new view is emerging of KM 2.0 that maps many of the principals of Web 2.0 and
Clearly though ‘2.0’ stuff does not replace ‘1.0’ stuff as the suffix might imply: traditional ‘1.0’ thinking and tools run hand-in-hand with ‘2.0 stuff’. Organisations need both and they are co-evolving.
But the key word in all of this is the word ‘social’. Another label for KM 2.0 might be ‘Social KM’. It is an emerging social model of KM that clearly places responsibility for knowledge sharing and making knowledge productive in the hands of the individual.
And so in the world of KM 2.0 we have two categories of social tool – soft-tools such as after action reviews and knowledge cafes and techno-tools such as wikis and blogs – an incredibly powerful combination.
So if the central question asked by managers in the KM 1.0 world was ‘how do we make people share?,’ the question of the KM 2.0 era is ‘How do we better share, learn and work together?’ That question is asked by everyone!
KM is becoming social.