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The Power of Three Dimensional Relationships September 19, 2005

Posted by poseidongroove in eMail Management.
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For several years, we’ve been led to believe that knowledge management and collaboration is all about technology. Most papers you read or most vendor literature you come across focus on the features of their KM/Collaboration platform. For the purpose of this discourse it is important to define what I understand as Collaboration and Knowledge Management.

Knowledge Management is the area of everyday work that provides the means for organisations to accumulate the collective intelligence and memory of that organisation. Typically, organisations will choose to implement a platform to enable this. Typical attributes of a KM Implementation will include a Document Library, Project Workspaces, Discussion Forums, Communities of Practice more on these later.

Collaboration on the other hand can be defined as people within an organisation or spanning more than one organisation coming together to share ideas, work on a process or business activity on a common platform. Collaboration can take place implicitly or explicitly . Collaboration can also occur asynchronously (e.g. email into forum,WIKI, Podcast, PSPCast and document contribution). It also occurs synchronously (e.g. White boarding, Chat, Web Meetings, Instant Messaging). All the technologies used are considered incidental and not fundamental. Attributes of Collaboration are also similar to KM except there is a heavy slant towards work processes. Activities that people come to work to do everyday.

The Industry and Vendors alike have tended to focus on characterising Synchronous collaboration as the most important element of this body of knowledge. This is a fundamental flaw as we focus too much on technology completely excluding the human behaviour that usually leads to a successful implementation.

KM and Collaboration are typically used to describe the same thing. I think we ought to clarify this. Knowledge Management is the end result of an organisation or group of people deciding to share their collective ideas, group memory interactions with customers and suppliers/partners using collaboration as the means to this end. You can only claim you are managing knowledge if the organisation can point to perceivable values of collaborating on its activities. Knowledge Management is like breathing oxygen. You shouldn’t have to think about it. I download a Podcast from iTunes or Mozilla with little effort.

When organisations pursue the fools gold of Knowledge Management they almost always fail. Collaboration results in explicit Knowledge Sharing or Implicit Knowledge Sharing depends on the intrinsic culture of each organisation. In marketing organisations, Implicit KS are more likely to be successful. In Finance/Research Explicit KS might be more successful. (Although I’m not convinced about this assertion myself).

I think we are seeing a massive change going on around us right now that’ll make everyone realise that we’ve been collaborating without knowing it all along. Here is the evidence, Semantic Web (RSS),Wiki,Blogging,Podcasting, Eclipse and Mozilla Plug Ins. All of these are great in their own way but we are witnessing chaos theory at work. I’m a great believer in Implicit KS. I call it “Three Dimensional Relationships” because the third part of the relationship can experience the intimacy of the initial two way relationship without being there. e.g. knowing that a customer always chooses to place an order on the last day of the Quarter from the email thread in the forum for that customer account or using basing our future product choices on feedback in a forum we subscribe to. I’ve been looking at a very interesting tool that seems to have the right mix of tool along this line.

  • Pebbles
  • It’s open source and a sign of things to come.

    What do you think ?

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