Today, Google announced that it will be releasing the Google Home, a product designed to compete with Amazon’s Echo. As far as technology goes, the category these products fall into has the potential for implications far beyond the home. The main idea here lies in the trainable responsiveness of the technology to the needs of the user – a bit like machine learning – and for in-home use, having a piece of technology that can anticipate one’s needs and track connected devices seems to be one of the next big steps for Internet of Things and connected technology. But as the technology matures, what are the implications for the professional world? How will businesses in the 21st century harness these capabilities? For companies using knowledge management and knowledge sharing practices, the possibilities are strong.
One of the driving concepts behind knowledge sharing and organic knowledge management is the existence of a digital community that serves as a tool for organization, keyword flagging, querying and tracking. Currently, the success of these tools depends on user input and interaction to develop the best version of the community. But, imagine a situation in which the collection and interaction process became automated and responsive. In-office speakers placed strategically around a work space could allow companies to more easily capture organic knowledge without relying on employees to manually document and query. Voice activation prior to a brainstorm session or meeting could allow the speaker to collect the information exchanges taking place, input that into the database, and then track the occurrence of certain terms and phrases. Once the technology has been “trained,” it can begin anticipating the needs of the workers by aggregating organic knowledge in forms determined by the users. Additionally, having technology like that in an office space could potentially improve employee productivity by negating the need for time spent documenting and inputting information.
Of course, there could be drawbacks to this theoretical technology as well, such as privacy concerns, the sheer amount of data it would collect (much of it being unnecessary), and the eventual self-filtering process that naturally occurs when someone knows what they’re saying is being documented verbatim, creating a bottleneck on information and idea exchange. Whether or not Google and Amazon are looking at creating enterprise-scale speaker technology is unclear, but the adaption of smart device technology on the consumer side suggests that the transition to the workplace could be relatively seamless.
With that said, the possibilities for the future of this technology are intriguing. Think about how much time businesses spend trying to harness the collective power of shared knowledge, improve worker efficiency, streamline workflows and increase office morale by removing “housekeeping” busy work. As organic knowledge management communities continue to grow in both availability and sophistication online – digitally – the tools that we use to collect that knowledge should grow in sophistication as well. Demand-side knowledge management is based on anticipation and collaboration, technology that can help facilitate that unobtrusively could be a key component of this next generation of knowledge management.