knowledge

In conversation: social media and the BT Intranet

The second in the series of in conversations with Red Sky Vision – this time a short sound bite or two about why we introduced social media onto the BT Intranet (this one is much shorter … only 1 min 20 sec 🙂 ).

In conversation with Richard Dennison – Social Media and the BT Intranet from Red Sky Vision on Vimeo.

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Five random learnings from enterprise social media deployment

While preparing for last week’s Simply Summit, a number of random points floated into my mind about things to consider when deploying social media tools onto a corporate intranet. I kicked off with these points which I’ve re-produced below:

1. The old rules still apply

Over many years, intranet managers have learned hard lessons around the best ways to manage intranets and intranet content. Some social-media-types will tell you that social media changes everything … it doesn’t … and the lessons we’ve learned over the years are still relevant. However, while the old rules may be the same, the issues will almost certainly be different. The best example of this is governance … social content still needs to be governed but you’ll need to think about different and more appropriate ways of doing this with user-generated content.

2. It’s a journey, not a magic bullet

As obvious as it sounds, change takes time to happen … if someone is selling you an all-singing-all-dancing social media platform which will “transform you organisation overnight …”, I recommend you ask them to leave. Years ago, when I first started working on intranets, I had a slide with this simple equation on it … the technology in question back then was a basic intranet – but the sentiment is as relevant today as it was back then (see bullet point 1 above!)

New technology plus current organisation equals expensive current organisation

The other thing to note about this is that you need to stick with it and not get downhearted when it feels like you’re getting no where.

3. A bottom-up culture needs top-down support

While social media evangelists like me like to think of ourselves as subversive freedom fighters taking on the might of the corporate machine, you’re going to find it pretty tough to get anywhere without support from your leadership team – even if that support is tacit rather than openly exhibited. The technology can’t do it alone … (see bullet point 2 above!)

4. Content types should complement each other rather than compete against one another

I covered this in my last post, so won’t bore you by repeating it here again.

5. Sometimes the only form of transportation is a leap of faith!

Don’t get sucked into endless debates about ROI etc. … sometimes you have to do stuff because you know it’s the right thing to do. Social media is right for organisations … it’s right for employees … and it’s right for customers.

… here endeth the lesson 🙂

[P.S. … don’t you just hate it when people use the word learnings … euchh!]

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Making knowledge management manageable

Cogs

Heavy industry of KM

I’ve been thinking about knowledge management (KM) over the last few days as we have a new KM programme kicking off in BT. This is good news as KM has languished a bit over recent months.

Inevitably, the meetings have begun to happen and the latest set of KM papers are starting to circulate for comments/sign-off etc. (… good news is they are in a wiki for anyone in the company to edit/comment upon 🙂 ).

The problem for me is that we are also at the stage where the enormity and complexity of the task ahead becomes apparent in an organisation as large as BT. The temptation is to wheel out the old heavy industry KM powerpoint decks so the strategy becomes so complex that the whole things grinds to a halt and becomes a long series of turgid meetings discussing impenetrable diagrams and concepts.

The truth is, I don’t think we have any chance whatsoever of managing knowledge in BT – if it’s actually possible to manage knowledge anywhere. What we can do is help people to help themselves and others as simply as possible.

It got me thinking about what we can reasonably expect to achieve and which would actually make a difference to the way people share what they know.

If we could achieve three things, I think we will have made more progress in the field of KM than we’ve ever managed before. Those things are:

  • expose in the network who people are and what they are interested in/working on/thinking about …
  • provide a way to search through the above and then offer a simple mechanism to connect like-minded people together in networks
  • automatically expose the activities of individuals to those in their networks through activity streams.

That’s it … simples!

Well … possibly not as simple as it sounds … but achievable at least.

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Here today, gone tomorrow …

I’ve seen lots of articles recently asking whether social media is the death of knowledge management (KM) … I’ve even written about myself, albeit nearly a year ago now.

In this context I was struck by an answer in Computer World from John Seely Brown to a question about what he learnt at Xerox (thanks  to @jobsworth for the heads-up):

“First, wisdom is often the biggest obstacle to innovation. In a rapidly changing world, the assumptions that underlie our past learning may now be invalid. So, an idea that didn’t work five years ago may work fantastically now.

Second, we tend to hold on to assumptions longer than we should. Often, by letting go of old assumptions, whole new vistas are created.”

I’ve always felt that traditional KM practices are too slow moving and try to impose an overly simplistic and controlling model onto what is essentially a chaotic, vibrant, real-time reality. Sometimes, it feels like KM is trying to take a series of still-shots of this real-time reality to present back to users who have already moved on – and when you put the still shots together, you get a jerky and incomplete picture.

I think John Seely Brown makes a great point – the world is changing so fast that keeping stuff for future use is becoming less and less valuable and can blinker our future potential. It challenges many of the precepts upon which KM is built.

As the world has become more and more real-time, so the balance has shifted away from re-use of existing information to the notion of relationships. The need for knowledge now is what has driven social media practices which, not only acknowledge the chaos of humanity, but embrace it to deliver distilled, real-time value. It’s not formally organised, it’s often not pretty, but it seems to work.

The million dollar question is how do you strike the right balance between learning from history and living in the past?

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