Thursday, September 10, 2009

Improving communication during work-awareness

Recent surveys and research show that executives finally value social media favorably to improve relationships with customers and build their brand (“Social Media: Embracing the Opportunities, Averting the Risks” paper from Russell Herder). Paradoxically, these same executives fail to embrace these technologies within their organizations to improve productivity through better collaboration, idea sharing, faster initiative adoption and, of course, knowledge capitalization. The reason for this can be attributed to the many past failures of Knowledge Management (KM) and collaborative technologies that were assaulted by armies of consultants and system integrators over-thinking communication empowerment. Today we know that most KM initiatives have failed due to exaggerated efforts to harness tacit knowledge into explicit processes. Having spent most of my carrier in the space of KM, collaboration and social technologies since 1988, I can testify to how many times the Web 2.0 in the enterprise was adopted under different names; Groupware, Shareware, Communication Intranets and others...the bottom line is that they all aimed at improving communication during work-awareness.

Let me expend on work-awareness. Work-awareness in state of mind where the individual is focused on his/her activity and driven by accomplishing the task at hand. If a company is able to empower the individual with communication and information discovery tools, then the information being captured is likely to be rich in relevance and valued as a sharable asset for others. Many power-blogger and micro-bloggers (Twitter) practice this concept to make their knowledge valuable for personal gain and knowledge acquisition. This is an observable phenomenon that companies can use to improve capturing knowledge from their workforce as well as empowering them to share this knowledge to solve problems and improve productivity.

Now back to the bad rep of KM and earlier versions of the Web 2.0. KM, like the early efforts of artificial intelligence, is a noble cause rooted in predictability and measurements that can rival the best structure data analysis. The reality is that the data source is messy and very human. As such, emerging movements and personal interpretations are more meaningful than a well defined empirical dashboard. Basically it requires a human being to extract value from this corpus of unstructured data.

Most of my readers know I have been developing a Web 2.0 awareness technology (Darwin Development Corporation) for the last two years that can can extract relevance out of the chaos of unstructured communication. I was a keynote speaker at the Enterprise 2.O conference in Montreal, Canada last week. Since the conference, I have been exposed to many Canadian companies who are struggling with making sense of their communication platform as they are exploring the implementation of Web 2.0 solutions. After every demonstration of Darwin’s Awareness Engine these companies were amazed at the technology’s ability to aggregate and correlate meaningful information on one screen; one called it “The dashboard of our voices” and an other said “I can finally make sense of what is going on without endless meetings.” Needless to say, we are now discussing the best way to implement Darwin’s Awareness Engine in environments that have only emails, Lotus Notes/Domino, Sharepoint and others with proven Web 2.0 solutions. I look forward to harvesting what they have in their legacy communication tools to show them that the value of collaboration is not about the platform you choose (the standard now), but instead it is about the knowledge hidden and captured during work (the future).

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