An effective suite of enterprise social tools can help organizations share knowledge, collaborate, and cooperate – connecting the work being done with the identification of new opportunities and ideas. In an age when everything is getting connected, it only makes sense to have platforms in place that enable faster feedback loops inside the organization in order to deal with connected customers, suppliers, partners, and competitors. It takes a networked organization, staffed by people with networked mindsets, to thrive in a networked economy.
Individual workers can develop sense-making skills, using frameworks like PKM, to continuously learn and put their learning to work. For example, they can seek new ideas from their social networks; make sense of these ideas by connecting with communities of practice; try new ideas out alone or with their work teams, and then share these ideas and practices.
But there is a major issue that gets ignored, by software vendors, managers, IT departments, and most everyone except the workers themselves. People will freely share their knowledge if they remain in control of it. Knowledge is a very personal thing. Most workers do not care about organizational knowledge bases. They care about what they need to get work done. However, if we are going to build organizational knowledge from individual knowledge-sharing, we have to connect the two.
The knowledge sharing paradox is that enterprise social tools constrain what they are supposed to enhance. Why would someone share everything they know on an enterprise network, knowing that on the inevitable day that they leave, their knowledge artifacts will remain behind? I could not imagine having this blog (AKA my outboard brain) cut off from me. I would not put anywhere near the effort I do now if someone else controlled my access to this blog.
The elephant in the room is human nature. Enterprise knowledge sharing will never be as good as what networked individuals can do. Individuals who own their knowledge networks will invest more in them. I think this means that innovation outside of organizations will continue to evolve faster than inside. It may mean that the half-life of organizations will continue to decrease, as more nimble businesses continuously emerge to compete with incumbents. Whoever creates an organizational structure that bridges the individual-organizational knowledge sharing divide may have significant business advantages.