How Enterprise 2.0 fosters Knowledge Capture

(Knowledge Capture in Enterprise 2.0 – click to enlarge)

Knowledge Worker : one who works primarily with information or one who develops and uses knowledge in the workplace (Peter Drucker – 1959)

If the definition above applies to your job then you probably are a knowledge worker. I personally am. And knowledge is the raw material we’re working with.

As opposed to the raw material manual workers deal with, knowledge is immaterial, it is just floating around. If we want to be productive we need to make sure this knowledge is harnessed, i.e captured and easily accessible.

Some studies show that between 25 and 50% of the communication between knowledge workers remains tacit and uncaptured. The question is how can we be productive and comfortable with our daily work if about half of the raw material we’re working with is wandering around ?

In the enterprise 2.0 presentation, I compare the knowledge capture in Enterprise 1.0 and 2.0. And it goes like this …

Enterprise 1.0


(Knowledge Capture in Enterprise 1.0 – click to enlarge)

Split knowledge

In the Enterprise 1.0 Microsofty world of the last century, the enterprise knowledge is split all around the place.

To start with, there are different types of document : office, HTML, mails. Even though mails are not supposed to contain information they do contain an awful lot of project related information.

These different types of documents are stored on different machines : mail server, intranet, shared network drives, knowledge management systems, local machines, etc …

Last, but not least, these pieces of information are accessed via different applications : Outlook, Office, browser.

Intimidating corporate policy

In the post about the conversation in the enterprise, I stress the fact that a knowledge policy based on Word documents and Knowledge Management bloated solutions is intimidating and discourage knowledge workers from capturing these units of knowledge. Therefore, a large number of units of knowledge (illustrated with color circles in the diagrams) are not captured and remain tacit.

However, some brave knowledge workers sometimes capture units of knowledge in Word documents. But they still don’t go the extra mile and share the actual document on the complicated KM system.

In the event where there is no KM system but a network shared drive they don’t store the document in the right location according to the actual taxonomy.  As a result, these pieces of knowledge become hard to reach and find.

Knowledge leaks and productivity issues

From the whole enterprise perspective, just like tacit knowledge, this unreachable pieces of information are knowledge leaks. And lost of productivity.

This results in figures such as the ones reported by an Accenture study on 1009 middle managers from UK and US. It shows that  managers spend about 2 hours a day looking for information and 50% of the information found is of no value.

There are tons of such studies : another one reports that knowledge workers spend about 30% of their time looking for data (Butler Group). Others show that

Looking at the different applications and data repository used, this hardly comes as a surprise.

Enterprise 2.0

Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers (Andrew McAfee).

Most people naturally focus on the term social in the definition above by M. 2.0. However, emergent and platform should not be underestimated.

Emergent

Emergent means that the system has gradually been adopted and naturally emerged as the best solution. The collaborative environment in which these systems have naturally emerged is the bigger there have ever been on the face of earth : the internet.

One can notice that there has been no manager or super architect that has defined up front which tools and how to use them to communicate. This has just emerged between the developers and project stakeholders.

The barrier entry for knowledge capture and sharing is just one click. It makes a huge difference. As a result, knwoledge workers capture far more knowledge.

Social

These collaborative platforms have been heavily used to develop successful and ubiquitous applications on the internet. How relevant these social tools are in a collaborative environment is therefore unquestionable.

If the system has emerged in such a darwinist environment as the internet, it also is because it has proved the most appropriate in a social environment.

Wiki, forums, blogs, etc … are straight forward, one click away from any browser. There is no intimidating corporate template to follow, no complicate KM system to master or Network Share Drive taxonomy to remember.

Folksonomy and social bookmarking have offered a new way to categorize the information. It helped in making the information easy to index and find afterwards. As I mentioned in the post dedicated to management in enterprise 2.0, whenever we put information in order, the objective is not to have an harmonious and logical tree of information which make managers feel secure, but rather it is for the information to be found quickly and easily afterwards by anyone in the community.

Besides, the natural conversational tone of these tools allow a more efficient communication.

Platform

Platform means that the whole set of collaborative tools is accessed from a single entry point. Blogs, Wiki, Forums, etc .. they can all be searched from the platform single search engine.

This is a key aspect of Enterprise 2.0 : having a single entry point for search is critical in this respect. It is what the first diagram illustrates : regardless of where they lie (blog, wiki, forums, profile etc …) all units of knowledge are searchable and accessible from the single entry point platform, from the internet browser.

Enterprise 2.0 Vs Enterprise 1.0

Enterprise 2.0 knowledge capture is more efficient than Enterprise 1.0’s because :

  • It is easier and less intimidating for knowledge workers to capture knowledge on collaborative platforms (wiki, blogs, forums etc …)  then on word documents and then knowledge management systems
  • Collaborative platforms offer a single entry point from the same application (web browser) to a set of tools and application where information has been captured

This enhanced knowledge capture has measurable results on knowledge worker productivity as reported by Andrew McAfee in his Financial times article :

The consultancy firm McKinsey has conducted three annual surveys on this question. In the most recent, published in September, respondents reported benefits that included better access to knowledge and internal experts, greater employee and customer satisfaction, and higher rates of innovation.

The magnitude of the gains was striking, ranging from 20 per cent (innovation rates) to 35 per cent (access to internal experts).

Advertisements

8 Comments

  1. it’s amazing article. I like your idea, thoughts and that’s how knowledge workers work in the dawn of information age.

  2. Hi Yoshi,

    So nice to read you on Heavy Mental. Welcome !

    Thank you very much for your comment. I really appreciate.

    All the best for you in 2010.

  3. Nice article !

    I like your first graphic – it illustrates the strength of Enterprise 2.0 which is knowledge capturing, and also illustrates the *weakness* of using all these tools: finding information again !

    Knowledge management is *still* very hard, even if the enterprise 2.0 tools improve communication and knowledge capturing 🙂

    My 2 cents on KM:
    http://www.ppcsoft.com/blog/km-3.asp

  4. Hi Altle,

    Thanks for your comment. I have just updated the post subsequently to make it clear that each color points is a unit of knowledge which is accessible from a single entry point (the collaborative platform) and from a single application (the web browser).

    In my view, Knowledge management is more a question of culture than a question of tools.

    My 2 cents : it can be dead easy and natural if there is enough leadership and appropriate tools. Think open source projects.

  5. Wow – liberating and refreshing. Thank you for putting it all together in such an easy-read way.
    I quoted you /refernced your blogs in this LI discussion: http://bit.ly/523Sg2 (see also http://bit.ly/70ltv2). My entry/interest into the E2 sphere came from exactly what you are pointing out, namely knowledge capture / fostering / dynamics – creating the more perfect collaborative workspace / environment for the knowledge worker. I have listed some ideas/thoughts here http://wp.me/PJ7ba-R, that started it’s dev here: (http://ispent2.blogspot.com/2009/03/collaborative-work-nature-of-current.html). But I see these are in the shadows of quality input/blogs from you and the like (see: Paula Thornton E2.0: Unleashing the Potential http://www.fastforwardblog.com/2009/09/16/e2-0-unleashing-the-potential/ or these infographs http://budurl.com/uxcollab
    I’d just like to add to your Emergent chapter the point that it is also the information that emerges along with structures, platforms, etc. but that’s perhaps what you meant by “systems”. And I agree with you that all the possible use cases of the Internet communication channel also emerges over time, but in the development of www some pioneer intentions where overlooked and we’re finally coming back to them (see: http://docs.google.com/present/view?id=ddkd94vm_173gj48mphg&revision=_latest&start=0&theme=liquid&cwj=true

  6. Hi Ralf,

    Thanks very much for your comment.

    It’s a bit embarassing. I am currently reading the Enterprise 2.0 book by Andrew McAfee and it just occured to me that my understanding of Emergence was somewhat incomplete.

    So your comment is fully justified : the emergent bit is not quite exactly what main E2.0 thinker say it is. It is still relevant though but not quite.

    I had a bit of a tense conversation with Paula Thornton in the comment of my post about the 11 principles of Enterprise 2.0 (http://www.techiteasy.org/2009/11/29/enterprise-2-0-explained-to-our-managers-in-10-principles/). She did not agree on my take against complexity. I think that what she really meant is that complexity science helps in understanding how structure emerge from pattern of usage from multiple users.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s