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Email is where knowledge goes to die

I am no DIY professional, in fact I am the opposite. The other day I found myself tring to rewire a household plug using a kitchen knife as a screwdriver. Half the problem with my DIY skills is that I don’t have the right tools to do the job so I end up ‘making a plan’ to get the job done. In much the same way I have begun to recognise that in business we often are found making a plan with tools that are not right for the job.

Email is a great communication tool, partly because its simple enough to use and partly because everyone uses it. Just because everyone is using it does not mean that it will work for every type of business communication. Email is perfect for communication an idea in a single direction and getting feedback, for handling official conversations and to forward our friends inane humour (please note my sarcasm in the last point)

The challenge is that email is so often used to distribute and store useful information. This is where email fails, it does not have an organisation structure, or search tool flexible and intuitive enough to manage this information correctly.

Have you ever wondered what happened to that link you were sent on email, or to the proposal your agency sent through a few weeks ago? What about the first concept business plan that has changed so many time your entire team is using multiple versions of the wrong document and no one knows where the correct final document is.

Somehow email tends to get lost or in some cases ‘never arrive’ at its intended recipients. This phenomenon has become a way of life. We have come to accept it because we had no alternative, at least we thought we had no alternative.

Social technology, opens up the door to a knowledge management process that is the right tool for the job. Infusing information sources (links, documents, videos, images, podcast, news and any other form of media) with social engagement can help sift out the information that is valuable and turn it into a knowledge base that adds to the growth and bottom line of the firm.

The following needs to happen to a piece of information before it can have a major impact in a business as a solution to a strategic or operational challenge.

  1. Information must be accessible in a central repository that is easy to access and use.
  2. The repository should include information tracking to highlight information that is attracting attention by people in the organisation
  3. Conversation needs to take place around the information. This conversation will challenge the information, apply it hypothetically, add new information to the conversation and finally upgrade the information into a state of knowledge. Knowledge comes about when people organise their thoughts around the information and develop a point of view.
  4. The knowledge impacts decisions in the business.
  5. The experiences we gain from acting in decisions add to our knowledge based and often graduates that knowledge to wisdom in the organisation which can be shared in the conversations in the knowledge management system.

Everybody draws on the knowledge base when making decisions in business. By socializing the knowledge management process above you can build a culture of storing and engaging with information and validating it within the organisation. Validated information rises to the top of the information pool and sparks conversations that lead to knowledge development, impact on business decisions. The results of those decisions are also added back into the system to develop the thinking towards wisdom.

Social opens up the opportunity for you to create a business culture that promotes learning, rewards it and retains it.