Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

How Much of Knowledge Management is Social - and Manageable?

By Dennis D. McDonald

This post was sparked by reading a discussion series in GovLoop’s Knowledge Management in Government group. What caught my eye were several references to the relationship between “knowledge management” and “social media.”

I’m fascinated by such discussions. My career has frequently touched on both of areas and I think I’m finally beginning to understand how they relate to how people work. Here is the comment I left on GovLoop:

In reading this discussion series I’m surprised I haven’t seen references to the concept “social business” which seems to have evolved from the old “enterprise 2.0” and “web 2.0” concepts. Yet the concept of knowledge sharing seems to underlie much of what is being discussed, and much of sharing is based to some extent on social interaction.

My own story is that I got my start professionally by researching the relationship between formal and informal communications among scientists and engineers, then I got into what many would think is “traditional IT.” 

Now, given I’ve been focusing on collaboration, social media, and professional networking, I feel like I’ve gone full circle. One thing I have learned is that there is a limit to what we can control in terms of how people communicate, collaborate, and share information. It’s not like it used to be in the IT world where we could safely automate repetitive white collar and administrative processes. Nowadays we also need to enable people to discover, establish relationships, and share questions and answers. 

We can provide a foundational infrastructure of both technology and processes for that to occur; there’s a lot of competition in the marketplace for systems and procedures to do this. But I am leery of attempting to provide too much structure to how people gather, organize, and share information. Such behaviors tend to be personal and spontaneous, sometimes they are private, and sometimes they are social. Instead, I think it’s more important to provide leadership and direction so that people understand where they are headed and how thay can manage their own communication and collaboration behaviors to handle the knowledge they need.

Here are some more posts that touch on these topics:

Copyright (c) 2011 by Dennis D. McDonald

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