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Unexpected knowledge sharing: on recording and discoverability of knowledge traces

[I actually started to write it as a part of the post that will appear next, but thought that it makes sense to separate these two 🙂 ]

In many companies usual communication evolves around joint work and on “need to know” basis. For me some of the greatest challenges of are about tapping into knowledge which is not part of existing workflows: would it be about disconnected groups learning from insights of each other, discovering like-minded others where you wouldn’t expect or serendipity that gives birth to innovations.

However, there are obvious problems with knowledge which is not part of existing workflows: we don’t know if our ideas have value at all, who would be interested to hear them and what are the good ways to connect. So, the question is – how to motivate people sharing knowledge in this case?

I’m thinking of two complimentary strategies:

Making demand side visible. I strongly believe that knowledge flows are powered by questions and that most of the people are eager to help if they see someone in trouble. So, making questions and problems of others visible helps sharing insights across organisational silos. Of course asking is more difficult then answering and reinventing is more fun then reusing, but I wouldn’t go into details now since wrote a lot about it 🙂

Another way would be to motivate recording and discoverability of knowledge traces (if you want more context on knowledge animals and their traces see Survival in the knowledge economy (.pdf) by my colleague Janine Swaak who is unfortunately stopped blogging).

Would it be nice if experiences and ideas of others in your organisation are magically recorded and pop-up in front of you each time you struggle with something where they could be of a help? (Of course in a way dramatically different from MS Office Clippy 🙂

In this case there are two important things: leaving traces of your knowledge in public and ways for others to discover them. For the time being I’d leave the discoverability issue aside and think about leaving traces.

Our work is increasingly digital, so we leave digital traces anyway. Some of them are already accessible to others (e.g. documents on intranet), others are locked in private collections. Many of those kept locally could be shared with (selected group of) others without much problem, but we need right motivations and tools to do so (think of your bookmarks that probably migrated to del.icio.us).

Some traces could be recorded automatically. For example, I don’t mind if articles I ordered or conferences that I registered for will be recorded and available somewhere where my colleagues could easily find it.

If we have enough reasons we can document those that are hard to record automatically. Think of blogging (and my next post is on that as well 🙂

I probably should write about the privacy issues around all these, but I really would like to finish another post before dinner 🙂

Also: for another angle on this – Legitimised theft: distributed apprenticeship in weblog networks

Archived version of this entry is available at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2005/09/15.html#a1669; comments are here.

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