As promised, I’ll now acknowledge that blogs have value. In what ways I’m not sure yet, but it’s a losing proposition to continue down my former path. So—let’s expand the conversation. Let’s talk about what are commonly referred to as “web 2.0” technologies. They usually include such things as blogs, wikis, RSS, mashups, social networking, etc. Taken as a whole, I can get behind web 2.0 much more than I can for any one application. That’s because they all share an underlying driver that transcends a specific use. They all rely on peer-to-peer access. The need for monolithic sources of knowledge is fast becoming irrelevant. I’ve argued this point for some time, so in this case web 2.0 helps my cause.
The only fly in the ointment however, seems to be that organizations just aren’t ready for it. At our KM conference earlier this month, the theme was innovation and the presenters certainly did their best to illustrate the buzz around web 2.0 and the like. But what I heard from folks there were issues around implementing “old” technology, such as collaborative spaces, and repository management. With only a few very notable exceptions (and you know who you are), attendees were concerned about some very practical and long-standing knowledge sharing problems such as getting people to create, share, and reuse regardless of what technologies are available to them.
That leads me to consider that there may be a divide looming—those organizations that are taking a traditional knowledge sharing approach v. those that are testing the web 2.0 technologies to see if more knowledge sharing occurs. And, because web 2.0 technologies rely on the previously mentioned peer-to-peer model, one could argue that expertise location is enhanced as well. After all, if you get something from someone’s blog, being aware that that person has useful content on similar topics naturally allows you to stay connected with a person v. a repository.
Nevertheless, my work in KM—while straddling the divide—has still been in the traditional; taxonomies, repositories, validated content, knowledge maintenance processes, and so on. It’s not a resistance to the new, it’s what’s being asked for. Regardless of the technology used, some basic change management and human nature considerations are still king. Recently, a client senior executive said to me, “There’s nothing to keep my people from sharing; all they have to do is get up out of their chairs and go down the hall.” True enough, as far as I could tell nobody was shackled to their desks. Yet no sharing was going on. And, this organization has enough technology to make most of us jealousy—satellite VTC, webcams on PCs, instant messaging, and on and on. Still no sharing.
In another case, a member of a “gang of four” (her description) told me that she and her colleagues do get together in person to share what they know—but they have to do it secretly out of doors. When I suggested that we could help them with a collaboration space to allow them to share 24/7 (and stay inside during the Winter), she flatly said “no,” that putting those same kinds of comments in electronic form would be too risky.
So those cases and others, IT management’s concerns about effective management of all technologies, and the fact that some organizations haven’t even learned to walk with KM means that web 2.0 technologies would be the equivalent of immediately going to running with KM scissors in hand. But, if you’re worried about me being left in the last century, never fear. APQC’s next consortium learning benchmarking study, KM and Enabling Technologies (principally web 2.0 stuff), launches in July, and I get to play in it. I suspect that they’re taking the approach that making the nay-sayer a part of the experience will open my eyes to a brave, new world. By the way, we may even innovate the way we do studies with this one. There’s been some talk of using a wiki to develop parts of it. Stay tuned.