Enabling the human factor in knowledge management: Web 2.0 and Social Media

While for a long time KM was very technology-driven, and while this happened in a period technology just started to evolve and mainly delivered tools like databases or first platforms, KM got to something that resembled more information management and was focused on how to transfer this information from one to the other. This approach neglected the fact that knowledge is human bound. Knowledge is a sum of information, context, human experience, and personal views and is always connected to a person, the expert knowledge worker.

Therefore, KM has to do a shift from the know-what to the know-who-knows. It gets less important to know something than to know who to contact, who to ask, who to connect to. Based on those interactions, one is then enabled to develop one’s own skills, to implement others experiences and knowledge into one’s own setting or context, and thereby to develop new knowledge that can be given to others.

In this approach, people are central. Knowledge is shifting from information to human mind. Management has to change focus from designing environments to enabling human interaction and networks. And the new tools of Web 2.0 and Social Media are very important enablers of this new approach, maybe even the one stimulus it needs for the shift.

Over the last years, people from all ages and with diverse backgrounds started to use social media- Facebook for personal use, a blog they follow, or forums to search for information on very specific topics or problems. They discovered that the world is full of experts, of people sharing their experiences and giving advices. Googling a solution for a problem got more common than asking people around you. Concomitantly, people started to share their own knowledge, to contribute to discussions, to give insights. Communities formed, and social media got an important place in peoples everyday life.

Now this new form of interaction and sharing is coming to business life. Slowly, people start to adapt what they experience in private to their business environment. They connect to each other inside and outside an organization, they seek, they sense, and they share what they know, using the tools or practices they know from private life. This is totally changing the way information was distributed within organizations so far. Now information is beginning to be really shared, and it’s done bottom-up, agile, and participatory.

Still, it is way too early to celebrate a new area of knowledge management. Although a participatory and de-centralized approach is very likely to be way more accepted by users, there are many hurdles to overcome. Even when management supports knowledge sharing within a company, they may be suspicious to implement “leisure tools” into their business environment- maybe their employees are more chatting about sports results than business projects? Employees may be hesitant too. Not everybody is using social media in private life, not everybody likes technology-based tools, not everybody is open to try something new. There may be disagreement about the tools used: Is microblogging or a blog with comment function better for us? The preferences may be very personal. And last but not least: Can we really benefit from social media if in the business settings, contributions are similar than outside: 1% of regular contributors, 10% of from-time-to-time contributors, and the rest is just reading?

So it’s not time to open this bottle of champagne yet. But it’s definitively time to put it into the fridge and get the glasses ready!

Picture from pixabay

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