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James McQuarrie is a London (UK) based User Experience Consultant who designs and helps build digital products & services that delight their users.

Could Social Networking be the answer (or at least part of it) to the Knowledge Management problem? (UPDATED 22 Aug 2007)

For years organisation’s have struggled to realise the potential of their collective knowledge because they have no way of collecting or sharing it. Many have tried, some more successfully than others, to install IT systems that will provide the tools to do it; search, document storage, online staff profiles and CVs. Few (if any) have really managed to nail the problem.

The issue is that more often than not the tools are misused, abused, or simply don’t work. Search systems don’t return the results people need, and they give up using them. People publish documents because they are told to, what they publish is not always great as a result. Profiles and CVs are useful to new staff, but offer little value to individuals with established networks who will use those to find someone with the skill or interest they are looking for.

What is needed is a system that allows people to share their interests, to create groups around specific areas of research or development, to share their ideas and thoughts with other like minded people and connect with them. The system has to put individuals (and specifically not management) in control of these functions. It has to let them create, join or leave these groups. Let them invite others to connect to them and their ideas. It has to give anyone and everyone an equal voice, focusing on people and their interests, not interests and the people who have them. It has to be like a social networking application?

Social Networking sites, like Facebook, offer these tools;

  • they empower individuals to create groups and communities who share an interest
  • they provide a simple, easy to use contact point for sharing applications, documents, images, videos etc
  • they provide a gateway for people to discover, and connect to, others who share their enthusiasm for specific topics.

As well as providing the right type of functionality to support Knowledge Management, social networking style applications would also be familiar to people, reducing the need for training, and (hopefully) also reducing any resistance to using them.

Update – 22 Aug 2007 – MySpace for spies

The US are launching a MySpace / Facebook style application for their intelligence analysts. This is a perfect example of what I had in mind; cross country, Worldwide, (in this case) cross agency collaboration and information exchange, using the social networking concepts and ideas to benefit an organisation’s “business”. (Found via TechCrunch).