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Working Out Loud Turns Knowledge Into a Utility

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Working Out Loud Turns Knowledge Into a Utility

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Think about the utilities that you might use every day in your home -- electricity, water, cable, gas. What are their common attributes?  When I asked myself that question, I came up with these two:

  • I don't know exactly where they come from; I just know that (assuming everything is working properly) they are always there when I need them.
  • I as the consumer get to decide how much and in what form I use them.

Electric Utility.png When I want some electricity, it might be to watch television or to run the washing machine or to recharge my phone.  I can make it come out into a three-pronged plug, a USB connector, or a DC adapter.

Similarly I can take a coax cable coming out of my wall and get a phone signal, a TV program, or access to the internet depending on which device I connect to it.  The gas line to my house might warm the room, light the fireplace, or heat the water.


Water Utility.png

When I want some water, I can make it come out of a faucet quickly to fill up a sink or bucket.  I can make it come out in a stream to wash my car or in a spray to take a shower.  I can even make it come out in a drip to feed my humidifier or refrigerator's ice maker.

All this "stuff" (electricity, gas, water, cable signal) is always there waiting to be used.  I don't have to call up for it to be delivered.  I also don't have to specify to the supplier how I want to use it.  I just have to tap into it.

So how does this relate to social business and working out loud?

Well, for many years the people who study knowledge management as a discipline have talked about whether the "push strategy" or "pull strategy" is better for enabling the flow of knowledge.  The Wikipedia entry for Knowledge Management says:

One strategy to KM involves actively managing knowledge (push strategy). In such an instance, individuals strive to explicitly encode their knowledge into a shared knowledge repository, such as a database, as well as retrieving knowledge they need that other individuals have provided to the repository. This is commonly known as the Codification approach to KM.

Another strategy to KM involves individuals making knowledge requests of experts associated with a particular subject on an ad hoc basis (pull strategy).  In such an instance, expert individual(s) can provide their insights to the particular person or people needing this.  This is commonly known as the Personalisation approach to KM.

According to this push/pull model, the only two choices available are to either ask knowledge producers to "explicitly encode" it, or to expect those who need knowledge to make requests to get it.  Both of these methods assume that knowledge transfer requires someone (a producer) to deliberately bundle up that specific knowledge for another person (a consumer) to use.  The only question in this model is whether it is bundled in advance or upon request.

But there is a third way that is neither push nor pull.  Imagine everyone in your company is working out loud in your Jive platform.  And by "working out loud," I don't just mean collaborating, but collaborating in the most open way possible -- doing their work in such a way that large numbers of people can see it who might otherwise not be aware of that work. 

Now suddenly because your organization's knowledge is visible to anyone who wants it, it is neither packaged nor requested; it just gets created as a byproduct of the work being done.  It's not "shipped" like a product; it just exists as a utility.  Your social platform becomes a big knowledge generator that you as a knowledge consumer can plug into.  All that knowledge is out there "in the wall," and you decide by who or what you follow, by notifications, or by custom activity streams what kind of knowledge you want to see and how you want it delivered.  You design the plugs and filters to meter out that knowledge in the ways and at the volume you prefer.  Nothing gets pushed to you and you don't have to pull it out of anyone.

So try getting your organization working out loud and discover how much knowledge you have on tap!

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