finding people who know

Jane McConnell published her 9th annual report on The Organization in the Digital Age last month. Jane recently posted 10 key findings from the nearly 300 organizations surveyed.

“4. Finding People “Who Know” Is Winning Over Finding “The Information I Need”

Enterprise search is stuck at a low level of satisfaction with results. Organizations are prioritizing their efforts between finding information or finding people and the latter is the more frequent choice.

Lack of good information management practices is a concern because the high performers in the learning, customer and knowledge scenarios cite information management as a key success factor.”

While one way to interpret this finding is to say that information management practices should be improved, another perspective is that people are adapting to information abundance by relying more on  human relationships than official explicit knowledge. This mirrors my own professional development over the past decade where I am relying more on my network of trusted colleagues than any particular source of information. As Dion Hinchcliffe recommended, today we should let the network do the work.

In the practice of personal knowledge mastery, I strongly encourage people to build their networks around people, not information sources. In my online workshop, PKM in 40 days, we dedicate one week to ‘networks & communities’ and another week to ‘finding the right people’. Another finding in Jane’s report is that few of the organizations reported that it was “very easy for people to learn in flow of work”. Those that found it easy had more communities and social networks available for knowledge sharing. The bottom line, in my opinion: it’s all about connecting people.

enterprise-km.001This is why I advocate reversing the traditional flow of knowledge in the enterprise. Instead of top-down information flow, organizations should support bottom-up communication flow. By encouraging conversations between connected colleagues & customers, the organization then has a natural resource from which to encourage working out loud [this is international WOL week], and can use enterprise resources to curate these knowledge flows for later use. Knowledge artisans first need to choose their personal productivity tools. Systems of engagement, like online communities of practice, or enterprise social networks (ESN) can then be the bridges that connect personal sense-making with organizational knowledge, while collaborating in teams and groups. Finally, the enterprise can maintain systems of record (e.g. Sharepoint) as institutional memory.


3 Responses to “finding people who know”

  1. Madelyn Blair

    Starting with information flows from the bottom is exactly right. 25 years ago, I designed such a process (called Information Flow Analysis) to the benefit of several organizations large and small who gained insight into how they worked and how to improve them. It worked because it built up from the bottom.
    You are right to say that data and stories give context. You can’t tell a story without context. In fact, John Seeley Brown said that story was the smallest form of knowledge because it conveyed the context. However, saying that knowledge plus stories are personal ignores the reality that stores are a great deal more than personal. They are social. Our relationships connect us and our stories. Taken together, our stories form the narrative and define us as a people, as a society, as a culture. Stories carry our values, our beliefs, and our priorities. Knowledge and stories are so much more.


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