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Social Learning and Knowledge Management Lifecycles Combine

06.26.2013
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Very interesting book called "Too Big to Know" which talks about the impact of social technology on knowledge.  We are early in creating our Social Intranet and are only just discovering the unique world of Social Learning and Social Knowledge Management.  As expected, we tend to try to reproduce traditional approaches online rather than trying different approaches to traditional thinking by leveraging Social Technologies.  We have been focusing on the traditional concept of Ask the Expert which fits the traditional model of knowledge attainment and dissemination.  But in the new world knowledge development is a shared activity achieved through group think.  The dynamics of knowledge creation, validation and dissemination are completely changing and there are many challenges as well as opportunities that come with it.  This book covers a lot of how the Internet and the Information Age has driven this new dynamic and it's impact on our culture, etc.

How does this apply to a Social Intranet?  Essentially, we need to think about knowledge as a shared activity and not belonging to a single Expert.  So while creating single access lines to Experts can be a efficient way to gain access to knowledge to maintain and improve productivity levels, we need to think about creating Group structures to further the development and curation of Organizational Knowledge.  So I can imagine groups being created around specific bodies of knowledge and within these groups we create different ways to access and develop the collective knowledge of this topic by creating various kinds of connections between the members of this group who are creating, refining and consuming this knowledge.  For instance

  1. Ask The Expert - connects consumers to known (or unknown) experts by requesting specific knowledge
  2. Lists of Known Experts - allows consumers and creators to connect with known experts so that knowledge and information that is produced is pushed to consumers via activity feeds, etc.  The list of known experts can be maintained manually by people who have established credentials proving they are experts and algorithmically by the system that identifies experts who prove their knowledge through the content they produce and their behaviors on a Social Intranet
  3. Documents - Knowledge producers publish their knowledge in documents that can be accessed by consumers
  4. Discussions - sub-topics of this knowledge area can be debated and discussed between consumers and producers creating tighter feedback loops that refine and curate the body of knowledge
  5. Videos - videos are just another form of document/content published by knowledge producers
  6. Blogs - Another great tool for knowledge producers to create an ongoing refinement of knowledge between producers and consumers.  Similar to discussions but the curation process is more explicit
  7. Tools - Tools can be provided to assist in the access and application of knowledge.  Examples may be relevancy engines, search filters, data maps, etc.
  8. Much more

I think providing groups spaces around bodies of organizational knowledge will greatly facilitate the shared and collective ownership for development of the knowledge as well as shared consumption and learning of that knowledge. We will still be faced with the challenges outlined in the book "Too Big to Know" such as "Echo Chambers" which reinforce inaccurate information by walling out diverging opinion, but that's where moderation by individuals can come in to break down those chambers.

Now as organizations try to find ways to implement Social Learning, they once again may try to implement traditional learning techniques in a Social Environment rather than taking advantage of social activity as a different approach to learning.  Most people learn best when they can apply learned knowledge in practice and even better when they can share that learning with others as new "experts" of that knowledge.  The student becomes the teacher to new students and the cycle continues.  A report by Ben Betts called Social Learning: Answers to Eight Crucial Questions, really explores the nature of applying Social Learning to organizational environments.  On page 20 of this report it talks about the Collaborative Learning Cycle

  1. Creation - Codify ideas; create, publish and explore.
  2. Curation - Negotiate best practices, remix and integrate
  3. Culture - Resolve shared practices, language and competencies
  4. Connections - Trigger experiences, make connections, build understanding

I think this process is very tightly connected to the Knowledge Creation Cycle especially as the latter becomes a group activity.  Essentially. these activities are merging into a shared lifecycle as knowledge creation and learning become combined social activities.  Traditional models compelled knowledge creation as a separate activity performed by experts and then learning that knowledge as a separate activity by consumers of that knowledge.

The modern social world no longer separates those as distinct activities but combines them where experts and learners become one and the same as a group.  In this group experts provide learning to learners.  Learners, through their interaction with experts on creating and curating knowledge, eventually become experts through their learning activities and practical application.  Experts leverage the practical application of knowledge by learners to further gain insights to the efficacy of the body of knowledge they created and the cycle continues.

Essentially, this creates an efficient engine to drive Shared Organizational Knowledge through the shared processes of knowledge creation and learning.  What better mechanism to create a Learning Organization culture than by leveraging a Social Intranet in this way!  This not only helps organizations develop shared understanding of important areas of business, strategy, operations, etc. but it also is a mechanism to connect siloed functions within an organization where they both depend on that shared body of knowledge and they can collectively develop that body of knowledge by sharing their experiences in the application of that knowledge within their functions which traditionally are not transparent to each other

Published at DZone with permission of Jive Community, author and DZone MVB.

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