By Kathy Barton
80% of knowledge management projects underperform. Why? Information gets loaded into a database, but then quickly gets outdated. It’s hard to maintain, and it tends to be limited to what is known as explicit knowledge. This is information that’s easily written down, captured and stored in documents and databases. It’s really more like data than information, and it misses the knowledge that’s often most important to the organization — tacit knowledge, that critical information that experienced, expert employees have in their heads. This is much more difficult to document or codify in a database.
This tacit institutional knowledge — what is generally thought of as expertise – is at risk when employees leave. It is also what’s most important to convey to new hires, so they can quickly become productive in their new environment, not waste time “re-inventing the wheel,” and avoid repeating mistakes. As with so many other things, social media technology offers new opportunities to capture both explicit and tacit institutional knowledge and make it broadly accessible throughout the organization. This is the role of knowledge communities.
Knowledge communities sit at the intersection of knowledge management and social media. They combine social media tools (think: something like Facebook) and knowledge management principles in a dynamic environment where people can collaborate, share information, and organically create an evolving and up-to-date knowledgebase for both internal and external audiences.
Knowledge communities offer tailor-made solutions to many organizational challenges: breaking down silos of information; sharing information across time zones and geographies; easily locating the solutions to recurring problems; retaining intellectual capital when staff leave or retire. They are easier to manage than structured knowledge management systems. They can also help build relationships across an organization, or between an organization and its partners, clients or distributors.
Says Stowe Boyd, CKO of Knowledge Capital Group, “Knowledge is not a dead pile of facts, but the outcome of a dynamic interaction with the world at large, and more importantly, the other people in it.” At ISM, we’ve established thriving knowledge communities for companies like ExxonMobil, Kraft Heinz, AAA and others. We’d welcome any opportunity to discuss how a private, branded knowledge community can enhance your company’s knowledge management efforts and capabilities.