Friday, 19 January 2007

Will Enterprise 2.0 equal successful KM?

I remember when 'knowledge management' became a buzzword. I think it was in the late '90s, at a time when the corporate world was using email regularly and was beginning to wake up to intranets. The realisation began to dawn that information locked away in people's heads could perhaps be shared and that this would benefit an organisation if it happened. Some people (myself included) became very keen on this idea, and some even got jobs with titles like Knowledge Manager, of Chief Knowledge Officer.

After a while, it all seemed to go a bit quiet. Somehow, the idea didn't really take off, or if it did, it was in a relatively modest way, in a fairly small subset of organisations. Mostly, these were professional services firms such as legal practices and management consultancies.

What about the rest of the world? I suspect the reasons KM did not take off in them included one or more of the following:

  • They didn't understand the concept in the first place
  • They believed they were using all the tools they needed to do the knowlege sharing they wanted to do
  • The culture didn't allow knowlege sharing to take off
  • Inertia killed off any intiatives

So what has changed in the last 5-6 years? I'm a great believer in the principle that as far as computer-enabled communication is concerned innovations happen first on the public web and only later (if at all) inside organisations. And what has happened on the web during the last few years in this space includes, firstly, the proliferation of discussion forums, many of them powered by Jelsoft's vBulletin. These have introduced many a hobbyist to the addictive pleasures of online discussions (and/or rants!). Secondly, we have seen the rise of blogging - the number of bloggers doubles every six months, I heard Robert Scoble say recently. Third, there's wikis (maybe a dark horse and not well-know apart from Wikipedia) and fourth, the use of folksonomies. These applications, and any others like them that facilitate the creation of interactive communities, are known, I understand, as Web 2.0. (If you're getting the impression I think Wikipedia is a good source of definitions for all this stuff, you're right.) The application of such technologies to organisations is becoming known as Enterprise 2.0, as I learnt recently from Phil Wainewright, who steered me towards Andrew McAfee.

Should or could these changes have any impact on the process of knowledge sharing within organisations?

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