I was reading an article on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network on Social Media versus Knowledge Management. Written by Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald of Gartner, I was interested because I’ve discussed the topic of Social Media and Knowledge Management a few times in the past and I was pleased that the topic was still getting attention.
Then I read it.
To be fair, it started badly and got better. Here are their two “definitions”.
“Knowledge management” is what company management tells me I need to know, based on what they think is important.
“Social media” is how my peers show me what they think is important, based on their experience and in a way that I can judge for myself.
The basic precept presented in the article was that Knowledge Management is about collecting, classifying, and distributing knowledge while Social Media is chaotic and a source of concern for organizations afraid of losing that control.
I will admit that there are likely organizations that have that fear. I also believe that these same organizations would have that fear even if they didn’t have a Knowledge Management program. Social Business is a different mindset that take time to adopt.
It is the mindset, not the technology, that has to evolve.
Knowledge Management systems are the way they are because when the idea was conceived back in the day, that is the tech that was available. The technology for knowledge to be emergent wasn’t around. Information had to be submitted, categorized, and disseminated in order for it to be readily leveraged in the pre-2.0 applications.
I worked on a few Knowledge Management projects. The challenge was encouraging the submission of good, focused, content and then reliably making it accessible to people. With all the tools in the social media toolkit, this can be automatic.
Sure, curated knowledge is still valuable, but now you can use a wiki for most of the traditional curated knowledge. Ad-hoc information works well in forums, discussions, micro-blogging, and comments. Blogs are great for expanding on items that just don’t fit in 140 characters.
When you throw in social sharing, rating tools, and some basic gamification to encourage participation, one of the largest challenges to traditional Knowledge Management falls by the wayside.
Social Media is the future of Knowledge Management. People need to stop drawing a line between them, implied or otherwise, and work to evolve the older Systems of Records into Systems of Engagement.
The target is Social Business and it is built on the systems of the past.