Wednesday, May 25, 2011
The implications of social media on knowledge management.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the shift from a 'push' to a 'pull' information economy.  The same forces are also changing the nature of knowledge management (KM) - replacing a model in which KM was an activity that was centralized in terms of time, personnel, and location, to a highly distributed activity.

This shift manifests both in terms of the people who perform information management—through mediated, organized platforms like wikis, or through unmediated platforms like Govloop and Twitter—and in terms of the time when the task is completed.  Rather than creating records and support documents as its own activity, KM  can now occur as a regular part of everyone’s job description.

As social networking analysis matures as a field, knowledge management will change even more from a separate activity, concentrated in time and practiced by a few individuals, to a highly distributed, ongoing function that encompasses nearly every employee and occurs at all hours of the day.

The two biggest implications for government managers are these: 

  1. Make sure you are giving your employees the time, skills, and tools to perform meaningful KM.  This means not only giving your employees access to Twitter, Quora, or Corridor.  It also means training them on how to search for information from each of those networks, and then giving them time to fully acquaint themselves with the tools and add to the platforms' knowledge bases as part of their daily routines.
  2. Make sure that all the platforms through which you are capturing knowledge are interoperable and optimized for their task. As I explicated in a the presentation "How and When to Use Social Media," each platform has different strengths and weaknesses.  An ideation platform is quite different than an information network, which itself is different than a social network.  Though some features may appear in each (sharing content across platforms, for example), they are integrated differently into the medium - just look at Quora, Facebook, and Twitter as examples: each can share links, but the purpose of sharing those links is vastly different on the answer, social, and information networks (respectively).

With so much of the federal workforce being eligible for retirement in the next few years, KM is only growing in importance.  And social media will play a large role in its evolution.