knowledge-sharing, post-technology

Your organization just implemented an enterprise collaboration platform. Now what?

Most large organizations today have some kind of knowledge-sharing platform. The recent announcement of Jive’s purchase shows that this field is consolidating with a few large players dominating. The arrival of Workplace by Facebook may even limit tool choice more. For example, Jive sells for $5 – $16 per seat, while Facebook’s Workplace is $1 – $3 per seat, with no lock-in. Facebook Workplace is also free for non-profits and educational staff. Given the diminishing choices, enterprise knowledge-sharing today is even less about the technology.

Over many years of working with enterprise knowledge-sharing and collaboration tools I have learned that the hard work comes after the software has been installed and the initial training sessions are over. Then comes the question, what do we do now? Quite often the answer is: the same as we did before. Even with fewer tools to choose from, the biggest challenge is changing behaviours. This takes time. Therefore training is not the solution. A course will not result in behaviour change. Practice and feedback are needed, as well an environment that reduces barriers to seeking out knowledge, having time to make sense of it, and sharing it with discernment.

Quite often the largest share of the budget in any ‘digital workplace’ initiative goes toward the technology. The bigger change to manage however, is getting people to work transparently. One of the major benefits of using social media is increasing the speed of access to knowledge. But if information is not shared, it will never be found and knowledge will remain hidden. Transparency is a necessity for social learning.

While social media enable transparency, they also lay bare a company’s culture. A dysfunctional company culture does not improve with transparency, it just gets exposed. In a transparent workplace there is no place left to hide. This change alone can be enough to cause massive organizational upheaval. Transparency can be scary for anyone who owes their position to the system. Positional leadership must now compete with the more visible reputational leadership, exposed by the network. Pervasive connectivity can change the organizational power structures so that new leaders and experts may emerge.

In a transparent workplace, management must ask: how can we help people work in concert on solving problems, not waiting for direction from above?

In social networks we often learn from each other: modelling behaviours, telling stories, and sharing what we know. While not highly efficient, this is very effective for learning. Diverse and broad social networks make us aware of new knowledge, beyond the workplace.

Once any social technology platform has been installed, modelling cooperative work behaviours becomes an organizational challenge. The organization can support this by fostering and supporting communities of practice. These are potential bridges between work teams and social networks: a place to test alternatives. If the daily routine supports social learning in teams, communities, and networks, then an organization is on the right track. One determinant of effective professional communities is whether they actually change practices.

A multi-faceted approach to enterprise collaboration

Individual disciplines such as Personal Knowledge Mastery enable and empower each worker. Group collaboration is supported through practices like narrating your work. Communities of Practice provide a trusted space to push at the edge of one’s professional practice. Social networks give access to a diversity of knowledge and opinions that can promote innovative thinking and ideas for new practices. A workplace that provides psychological safety enables better collaboration to make informed decisions.

Finally, start simply.

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