Connect to any aggregator and knowledge starts flowing

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Photographer Susanne Walstrom
Photographer Susanne Walstrom

This older post included here because the new Friendfeed (but any aggregrator will do) enables you more and more to connect in and easy way. And connecting to an changing context is a necessary condition to start acting or getting the knowledge flowing.

Source: author: John Tropea

I’ve echoed words by Dave Snowden and Jon Husband that rather than trying to create a knowledge sharing culture, we are instead creating conditions and environment for that to happen naturally via a participation model that facilitates connections and shared context.

These conditions are:

simple tools, trust, self interest/benefit, and facilitation

…once people form interdependencies, then sharing becomes essential to get work done.

Email is simple, people who trust each other can exchange know-how in emails, and this requires no facilitation. Enterprise 2.0 tools (along with facilitation) can do a similar thing with tools that are more open and transparent, enabling more of an amplified and visible knowledge sharing culture to emerge. The difference here is an ecosystem is manifested where people are networked, and knowledge flows, this is much more connected for people to tap in or tune in to the social capital.

For more on this see my posts, The KM generation of networks and emergence and The KM Core Sample in relation to IM, KM 1.0, Social Computing, and KM 2.0.

Here’s a brief recap of the main points:

E 1.0 E 2.0
Boundaries (access or no access) Unbounded
Struture (rigid workflow) DIY structure and flow
No emergence Emergence (links and tags)
Clunky (high barrier) Ease of use (extension of human behaviour)

My post on KM 2.0 culture listed some general points to creating adoption of these tools or approach to work, such as:

job evaluation, change to a “work in progress” attitude, role-models, transparency, senior management support, champions (facilitation), publish not as you know it, the guru effect (reputation as reward), pilot/showcasing example, etc…

I also posted on a KM 2.0 model where this type of ecosystem manifests into offshoots, that is, we start off with a participation model where people can publish, discover, and connect with each other (basically an open publish and subscribe network), which can lead to offshoots such as new bonds/relationships, collaboration, communities, etc… So once we can connect and converse, knowledge starts flowing, and people are more aware and learning off each other, as a result groups and projects assemble with like-minded people (autonomy).

This is less of a focus on knowledge itself, and more on the platforms for it to flow, we cannot force people to share (we can’t measure this anyway), we can only offer tools that make sharing easy, and more in tune with human nature.

Matthew Hodgson says sharing knowledge is a social activity, which the primary method is conversation. When we have news or need to work on an issue we get together to talk about it; creating a perpetual online version of this is knowledge flow as we can’t always be in the same room, and we may not always be involved in the task, but it may come across our radar where we can chime in. Engaging online means all this tacit interaction is documented and flowing around, but it’s more…a Minutes of the Meeting is going to try hard to be a recording of the discussion, but a raw online forum discussion or blog a post is actually what comes out of people’s mouths. More from Matthew:

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“If we look back to the rich oral history of many of our cultures, blogging is a reflection of the need to story-tell, carrying with it important information not only on the what – the facts like the reports we typically store in our recordkeeping systems – but also the meaning behind the why and how.”

And a complementary quote from Nassim Taleb:

“The journal was purportedly written without…knowing what was going to happen next, when the information available…was not corrupted by the subsequent outcomes.” “While we have a highly unstable memory, a diary provides indelible facts recorded more or less immediately; it thus allows the fixation of an unrevised perception and enables us to later study events in their own context. Again, it is the purported method of description of the event, not its execution, that was important.”

And finally we have Dave Snowden’s 7 Principles of KM (I’ll just list them, see the post for an explanation on each one):

1. Knowledge can only be volunteered it cannot be conscripted
2. We only know what we know when we need to know it
3. In the context of real need few people will withhold their knowledge
4. Everything is fragmented
5. Tolerated failure imprints learning better than success
6. The way we know things is not the way we report we know things
7. We always know more than we can say, and we will always say more than we can write down


Patti Anklam points to some great posts by Steve Borgatti on facilitating knowledge flows in a network.

The two conditions that facilitate knowledge transfer are relational (quality of relationship between people) and structural (macro-patterns in the network).


Multiplexity“…refers to the extent to which one kind of tie between two people is accompanied by another kind of tie between the same two people. For example, two people who trust each other might also share information with each other, lend money to each other, and so on”

What facilitates relational sharing? What allows me to seek information from you?

– Knowing you are an expert in an area
– Already being aquainted (as Dave Snowden would say a shared context, high abstraction and trust)
– Access (time zones, too busy-burden of being an expert, competing business units, higher status)
– Trust, interdependencies, reciprocation


“The structure of social network affects how rapidly information flows from one end of the network to the other. Ultimately, the speed of information flow is a function of path lengths. When the length of the shortest path between a pair of nodes is high, it will take a long time for information to flow from one to the other. Networks with high average path lengths take longer to transmit information to all members. In turn, the average path length in a network is a function of a number of structural factors.”

Density – the number of ties in a network

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Higher density means information flows faster, as there are shorter paths. It also means the same or popular/pertinent information may keep surfacing.

Centralisation – a network centralised around a well connected node has great information distribution, but is highly dependent on one node, which can be damaging if they spread misinformation, and lose their dynamic if that person leaves and has to be replaced.
This aspect has good searchability as the the central person (goto person) can point you to where information lives

Core-periphery – revolve around a set of central nodes, and also with the periphery. Note, peripheral nodes are connected to the core, but not each other and core-periphery is not the same as lots of unconnected centralisation islands (clumpy networks)


“In sum, dense, core/periphery networks are very efficient at spreading knowledge. The other side of coin, however, is that they are not good at innovation because it is too easy for the conventional wisdom to swamp new ideas.”

“Promoting knowledge sharing is a matter of (a) creating the relational conditions that facilitate interpersonal transfers, and (b) creating the structural conditions that facilitate diffusion.”

Steve Borgatti has another post called, Creating Knowledge: Network Structure and Innovation, where he talks about the two ways knowledge is created.

Individual Creativity

“In some cases, an individual interacts with a number of others who may be completely unaware of what problem he is trying to solve, and then, with the knowledge gained, the individual goes off by himself and synthesizes a solution.”

I can see a social network doing this all the time, by participating and interacting we are learning from each other.

“People who interact daily come to know many of the same things, and are in that sense informationally redundant. In contrast, people who do not interact will often know many things that the other does not know.”

“The property of having ties to people who are not in the same social circles with each other is called betweenness or “structural holes”. A person rich in structural holes has many ties, and the people they are tied to are not tied to each other.”

I did not know that betweenness or “structural holes” was another way of referring to the “strength of weak ties”

Interactive Creativity

“…new knowledge is co-created by interacting individuals who are bouncing ideas off each other and actively integrating their different perspectives.”

“Interactive creativity also calls for heterogeneity — it is the successful synthesis of different perspectives that creates something new. But because the interaction in this context is more intense and more important, the relationship between the people needs to be very good. In particular, they need to be able to understand each other well. This tends to mean that the participants are fundamentally similar in language and background concepts. It also means that affective elements like simply liking each other are helpful, as are good social skills.”

We have heard Dave Snowden talk about this very point where he refers to: trust, interdependencies, reciprocation, and the level of abstraction (common wavelength of your relationship). If these aspects ain’t there, you ain’t gonna get any sharing happening, even if you have the ferrari of social networks and blogs.

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“People need access to a diversity of skills and knowledge in order to innovate. This argues for being as well connected as possible. If we want everyone in a group to be in a position to innovate, this will mean a very dense network in which everyone is connected to almost everyone.”

“…radical innovators are too well connected to the network, they can get swamped by the prevailing wisdom. As a result, radical innovation is facilitated by sparser and clumpier networks…”

This is similar to the “strength of weak ties” mentioned above. In a social network we can form our view of the network by adding contacts (subscribing to parts of the flow), but because it’s unbounded we are free to roam and investigate, we may decide to search and browse or subscribe to blogs of people we don’t know, or subscribe to a keyword search. All this allows us to go beyond our usually circle of know-how…Andrew McAfee expands on this with his enterprise bullseye post.


“The answer to the question ‘what should my organization’s network look like to enable innovation?’ depends on the kind of innovation.”

[ADDED 14/11/08: “Enterprise 2.0 is more likely if…

– Tools are intuitive and easy to use
– Tools are egalitarian and freeform
– Borders seem appropriate to users
– At least some of the tools are explicitly social
– The toolset is quickly standardized

Support for the Initiative
– Incentives exist, and are soft
– Excellent gardeners exist
– Patient and dedicated evangelists exist
– Energy and activity are primarily bottom-up
– Effort has official and unofficial support from the top
– Goals are clear and well-explained

– People are trusted
– Slack exists in the workweek
– Helpfulness has been the norm
– Top management supports lateralization
– There are lots of young people
– There is pent-up demand for better information sharing”]

[ADDED 24/04/09: I Know It When I See It, The Enterprise 2.0 Recovery Plan]

KM: Round 2.0
Conversations, Connections and Context
7 seconds to knowledge share
Post-KM : enterprise 2.0, facilitation and complexity
Knowledge Management…NOT!
KM 2.0 : doing your job or giving back to the organisation
Knowledge sharing in the new KM
The emergence of Serendipity 2.0 and Innovation 2.0

Photographer Susanne Walstrom
Photographer Susanne Walstrom
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