A few days ago, I promised to share my thoughts about Facebook in the context of knowledge management in the enterprise. So here goes.
First off, some context. For many years people have not wanted to share their “little black books”, their contacts and addresses. For whatever reason, some people appeared to feel that they were defined by the raw data rather than the relationships. Sad but true. As a result, when the first Customer Exploitation Systems came to be implemented, there were salesmen in all walks of life who pushed back, who refused to share their contact network.
Similarly, for many years bosses have not wanted their staff to help out any of the boss’s peers. If you take a charitable view of this, you could call it a case of incentive misalignment. Sadder still, the commonest reason was pure selfishness, bordering on spite.
I could go on but won’t. The point I’m trying to make is that our generation has not always wanted to share, to collaborate. To learn and to teach.Â This is not something I’m seeking to solve within this post. You can take a horse to water….
I am far more interested in environments full of people who want to share but can’t. I think that tools like Facebook can make an immense impact in such environments. Let me take three simple examples:
One, relationships. Facebook has a rich array of relationships, from Friend to Group Member to Network Member and even Cause Supporter, all the way to Event Participant. And they’re all non-hierarchical and nonexclusive. This is very powerful, since it mimics real-life relationships far better than organisation charts and hierarchies. Furthermore, it allows you to “subscribe” to your interests with reasonable precision.
Two, conversations. Facebook allows a wide range of conversation types, from Poke to Send Message to Write On Wall to Chuck Book to Hug to Give a Gift to Dedicate a Song. It also features a number of conversation styles, from text to video (and surely audio cannot be far behind) and a whole plethora of ways to attach stuff and comment on stuff, both bilaterally as well as multilaterally.Â Again, this mimics organisational real life far more than the straitjackets of email-only deprivation zones.
Three, transactions. Every event in Facebook is a transaction, and every transaction you do in Facebook can be an event. A news feed is nothing more than a transaction ticker. You get status updates on a number of things as well. And notifications. The entire alert process is promising and more flexible than traditional enterprise approaches.
None of this is perfect, but there’s a good foundation. Relationship-Conversation-Transaction. Pretty much everything persistent. Pretty much everything archivable and retrievable. The beginnings of syndication and search functionality.
Now, before I meander into my next Facebook post (where I connect Facebook with Four Pillars) let me bring this Knowledge Management piece to a reasonably tidy end.
Facebook provides a good relationship-conversation-transaction base as foundation. It assists you in finding people and skill and expertise, in creating communities of interest, in subscribing to news and events, in supporting polls and questions and discussion boards. It also captures quite a lot of profiling and preference and behavioural information.
If I had something like Facebook functionality within an enterprise, I could do things like draw collaboratively-filtered lessons from watching the apps that people used. Why does person A have an app set that differs so widely from that of person B? What can I learn from that difference? What can person A and person B learn from that difference?
If I had something like Facebook functionality within an enterprise, I could do things like plot out the routes that real information took, subverting hierarchies and tunnelling under garden walls. I could see relationship maps and mash them up with, for example, age-in-firm, to help me select mentors and buddies and role models.
If I had something like Facebook functionality within an enterprise, I could do things like start with a view that all information is open, then begin to close some elements selectively for regulatory or confidentiality or safety reasons. Instead of today’s post EAI post DRM nightmare, where Sharing is a Miracle. Or a lie.
More later. Keep the comments flowing.