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5 Impacts of Sharing Knowledge Within an Organization

With the maturation of Web 2.0 in the mid-2000s, predictions began rolling in regarding the impact these trends would have on the workplace. Email was (and remains) the tool most people used to communicate, but just how conducive to collaboration is it? The email inbox is known for its ability to overwhelm, and the transactional nature of email messages means that valuable knowledge rarely escapes the silos of traditional, hierarchical organizations.

A Little History, Wirearchy & Knowledge Mastery

As web 2.0 gave rise to online social networking, the workplace began to adopt similar behaviors. Expanding modes of communication beginning with SMS and instant messaging spawned a variety of new communcation tools and attempts to create the “social workplace.”

According to digital workplace researcher Jane McConnell, who each year publishes a report on digital workplace trends, “A multi-year perspective shows that organizations are moving toward ways of working that reflect the principle of wirearchy.”

The term, “wirearchy,” was coined by Jon Husband more than 10 years ago, yet it remains a relatively unknown concept in the mainstream business world. Wirearchy is “a dynamic two-way flow of power and authority, based on knowledge, trust, credibility, and a focus on results, enabled by interconnected people and technology.” Whereas a traditional hierarchy operates on the basis of command and control, wirearchy operates on champion and channel—championing ideas and innovation. Within a wirearchy, knowledge flows tend to be more horizontal than vertical, and problems are solved by engaging with distributed knowledge sources within social networks. Things get done through connections and collaborations.

Clearly there is immense value in effectively sharing knowledge within an organization in this way, but has been historically challenging to realize given the available technologies (e.g. basic enterprise social networks and enterprise search). The key to unlocking this “tacit” knowledge is tapping into and engaging the knowledge network within the organization.

5 Impacts of Sharing Knowledge Within an Organization

At Brainspace, these are core principles that drive us, both in how we work together as a company and as a vision for our products. The following are 5 transformational results of sharing knowledge within an organization:

1. Identifying subject matter experts

Universally visible communication channels enable everyone in the organization to see who is talking about what. This level of visibility allows those with the most to offer on a particular topic to float to the top and be the de facto expert. The challenge posed by enterprise social networks is that they tend to mirror organizational relationships, where experts are self-ordained and determined by “who knows who.” The real value lies in a company’s knowledge graph — i.e., “who knows what,” where experts emerge organically through their actions, sharing and ultimately the social validation of their peers

2. Information captured for reuse

As Harold Jarche points out, capturing information is only the beginning, but it is critical. Knowledge Management (particularly Enterprise Content Management) tools have proliferated in modern enterprises, and the amount of valuable data is increasing continually and exponentially. The new challenge is organization, categorization and access.

3. Access to information in context

Up to this point, the state of the art in accessing institutional knowledge is enterprise search. The right query, up-to-date taxonomies, and luck have been our best bet to find information we need to do our jobs. According to IDC, 16% of a knowledge worker’s time is spent searching for information, nearly half of the time, seachers don’t find what they need. This is a costly failure. The next generation of knowledge software must aim to connect information to individuals predictively and in context.

4. Open, collaborative workflows and processes

Again, “chance favors the connected mind.” The ability to share information and “narrate one’s work” increases the likelihood of knowledge transfer, serendipitous connections and innovation. By increasing the level of connectedness between people, it’s now possible to accelerate learning and time-to-insight in a way never before possible.

5. Leaders gain real-time view into the knowledge network

Modern enterprises are driven by rich conversation and collaboration. Visibility into the networks of knowledge within an organization is immensely valuable and historically impossible (or prohibitively labor intensive). Seeing the way ideas move through an organization opens up an entirely new set of innovative possibilities and allows leadership to align emerging social systems with business strategy.

A New Era in Knowledge Management

Despite the evolving paradigm of enterprise social networks and knowledge management, the available tools for actually extracting and transferring knowledge have simply not kept pace. A new era is here in which machine learning can begin to unlock the ideas within an organization and intelligently connect people and knowledge.

Take a look at our how we’re approaching next-generation knowledge management software, Brainspace Enterprise.

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