The Story of Social Knowledge

I know I have been writing a lot about Knowledge Management lately, but this is a very exciting time and the paradigms are shifting as I have mentioned. 

The old model of creating and storing knowledge to eventually using it (maybe) is disappearing in favor of knowledge generated and maintained by users and communities. 

I covered a lot of this before within the sponsored research model I use and you can find all of the links from my blog – but when I was discussing one of the components I wrote about before with my friends at Moxie we discovered there was a missing step.

I talked about Collective Knowledge as the ultimate goal for this paradigm.  This is where communities populated by interested parties help each other by providing the necessary knowledge.  The main difference with today’s model of KM is that the communities essentially become the replacement for the knowledge-bases over time.

One of the things we discovered working through that model with Moxie was that we needed to cover the interim steps to get there.  This is what this post is about.  Telling the story of Knowledge becoming social knowledge and eventually collective knowledge.

There are four stages for the use of Knowledge in Customer Service:

  1. Disorganized.  During this stage, there is no knowledge management to speak of.  Either there is a collection of documents, or maybe a knowledge base exists – but it is incomplete, obsolete or never used. The “knowledge” generated and used at this stage comes from user’s minds – they know what they need to say to answer the most common questions and they may know who to ask for a one-time answer  as they find the need.  There are no documented processes or solutions to effectively manage generation and maintenance of knowledge – thus, each person becomes their own model of KM.
  2. Accessible. This is the first model used for KM in the customer service world (and still remains the most common model).  During this stage the organization creates structure out of the mess that the organization has.  Segments of users are known and the general idea of their knowledge needs is also known or discoverable.  Processes are in place for users and agents to create, access, and use similar-but-different versions of the answers (more complete for agents, a summary for customers) usually contained in a single knowledge repository
  3. Social. The interim step to collective knowledge.  This is the stage we are beginning to see implemented today leveraging communities, using tools for socializing online, and generally understanding the there is a mixed state between the ultra-advanced model of communities providing solutions and companies using single-repositories; that model is social, where users can easily access via social tools and technologies to contribute their knowledge to the organization – and in turn benefit from accessing the same community for their needs.
  4. Collective.  I won’t restate what I said about collective before, but the summary is that once an organization masters leveraging their own people and known subject matter experts to create internal “communities of practice” they find new ways to work and to leverage also their customers’ knowledge, their partners knowledge, and virtually any knowledge that exists in the world with the end purpose of generating more value for all stakeholders: employees, partners, customers and anyone else involved in making the organization successful.

This is a very condensed summary of this evolution and the beginning of the description of the interim step from Accessible to Collective Knowledge; we will explore a few more details about this in the next few weeks, please stay tuned!

In the interim, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this – have you found this interim step necessary? Are you working in deploying this? What are your thoughts in the overall shift in knowledge paradigms?

Please use the comment box below to expand this conversation and – well, grow our collective knowledge.

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