Sunday 25 November 2007

Social Communication in the Enterprise

Creating a knowledge sharing culture in the enterprise is a difficult task. There are many benefits to be gained from an environment where employees can freely exchange knowledge and expertise, which otherwise may be lost when they leave the organisation or switch roles within it. This element is known as knowledge retention.

The following table shows the scenarios in relation to the tools or methods used for capturing and sharing knowledge in the enterprise. The green cell (social - tacit) is the one which is most coveted and is probably most difficult to establish as part of the organisational culture.

This social - tacit communication is what I am exploring in my dissertation. I want to investigate whether the use of an enterprise wiki platform will result in employees participating in a community environment where they can contribute and search for content which previously they would have to either request it or know where to find it in the unorganised shared folders.

I would classify each of the cells as follows:

Individual-Explicit: The creation of knowledge by individuals in documents or in eMails as part of their day-to-day tasks. This type of knowledge is often not shared or made available to others for re-use. In this context, it is often "lost" to the organisation. An example of this is a "How-To" document created by an expert on how they do their job and often stored on their own PC or printed in the form of a document.

Individual-Tacit: From the definition of tacit knowledge..."is knowledge that people carry in their minds and is, therefore, difficult to access. Often, people are not aware of the knowledge they possess or how it can be valuable to others. Tacit knowledge is considered more valuable because it provides context for people, places, ideas, and experiences". Freeing this knowledge can lead to improved collaboration and communication in the enterprise.

Social-Explicit: Meetings, Workshops, Internal Communications (Magazines etc.) and Intranet Content. This type of knowledge is created by many and requires some collaboration during it's creation or compilation. Organisations have been using Intranets for years now to allow many to access explicit information in relation to procedures, organisational structure, FAQ's etc.

Social-Tacit: A culture of knowledge sharing and open communication is required for social - tacit interactions to freely occur. The use of discussion forums and FAQ/best practice intranet pages have been tried for this type of communication in the past. The use of Wiki's in the enterprise is an emerging trend in this area, which tries to build on the success of wikipedia as a mass-collaboration and participative platform and bring this behind the firewall to solve real business problems. There are also many elements of social-computing which have been demonstrated by YouTube, FaceBook, Flickr and many others which can bring an element of personalisation to these portals.

The creation of communities of practice or adapting current communications methods to enable employees to participate in a wiki portal may help them to contribute to the greater organisational knowledge, however, it must be noted that the creation of documents and management of information strategies must be an important part of any collaboration strategy.

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