Why Yammer’s default question is unhelpful

If you agree with me that the greatest value in organisational online discussion comes through answering questions, then Yammer’s default prompt does not help.

“What are you working on?” asks Yammer – as a work-related version of the Facebook question “What’s on your mind”.

As a way of getting people to share work-related activity, that’s a reasonable question, and pretty soon you will find your Yammer stream full of statements like

  • “I’m working on a new proposal”
  • “I’m getting ready to go on holiday”
  • “I’m finishing the assessment report”

For some people, that’s interesting connectivity, that helps them feel connected with co-workers. For others, that’s unwelcome Noise; stuff they didn’t need to know that distracts them from their own work. The risk is that the noise turns people off.

This blog has long championed the use of Knowledge Pull behaviours, and Knowledge seeking.  We know for example that Asking is tougher than sharing, but gives instant results. We know that the more questions that are asked in a Community of Practice, the more successful it is. We know that 75% to 90% of knowledge sharing comes as a response to a request for help. We (or I, at least) believe that an internal knowledge market is best grown through demand rather than through supply. And also  that Facebook is not a good analogue for in-house social media.

If you want to use a product like Yammer for knowledge sharing, then I can’t help thinking there’s got to be a better default prompt – one that drives Pull and not Push; one that develops the habit of Asking.

Maybe something like

“What knowledge do you need to help deliver your work?”
“What can your social network help you with today?”
“What question do you have for your network?”

View Original Source Here.

The Knowledge Batphone – a role for KM?

One of the temporary roles a KM team can take on is to be an organisation helpdesk, manning the Batphone.

Imagine you are starting a KM project. You are extolling the virtues of KM, and the benefits of seeking and reusing knowledge as a way of saving time and delivering a better result. Yet your KM system is still not in place.

You have no communities of practice, or the ones you have are in the very early stages of maturity. People are still using your social media for tweets about what they are doing, rather than for knowledge seeking.  You have no structured knowledge assets, and knowledge is mostly scattered through various disparate repositories. You haven’t started with curation of knowledge resources, and are a long way from synthesis of best practice. Your search engine is still struggling, and pulling up duplicate, outdated or irrelevant results.  Your lessons learned are still (if you are lucky) in a massive database or file folder, or (if you are unlucky) in the back pages of project reports.
In short, your knowledge is still in a mess. How then can you satisfy and support a demand for knowledge?
One thing you can do is set up a helpdesk service, or (as one of the KMUK delegates called it) the Batphone.
People who need knowledge call the Batphone, and the KM team does the searching for them.  This is an investment of the KM team resource, but the KM team should by now have a good idea of what knowledge resources are out there, and should be well trained in use of the search engine. They should be super-searchers, and be able to deliver a good answer more quickly than the operational staff can themselves.
The benefits of the knowledge batphone are these:
  • It provides access to knowledge while the KM framework is being built;
  • It allows the KM team to start to create success stories, by calling the person back and asking “how useful was that knowledge to you?
  • It allows the KM team to understand the sort of knowledge which people are looking for, and therefore to prioritise the KM program to cover high-demand knowledge;
  • It allows the KM team to begin to create FAQs which can for the foundation for knowledge bases on critical topics.
So what do you do with the Knowledge Batphone in the longer term?
You can either retire the Batphone once the Communities of Practice have taken on the role of knowledge custodians, and are able to provide better knowledge than the KM team can, or you extend the role of the Batphone into a Knowledge Centre, such as those used by the big consulting firms.

Howver in the short term, you may find The Batphone is a great first step in providing access to knowledge. 

View Original Source Here.

The 8 demand-side principles for KM

Here is another reprised post from the archives – as relevant now as it was 5 years ago.

David Snowden’s 7 principles for Knowledge Management are justly famous in the KM literature as a simple and accessible set of principles. However they all relate to the supply side of knowledge management; to the transition from unconscious knowing, to conscious knowledge and to expressed knowledge. 

There is of course another side – the demand side, or the user side – which represents the transition from expressed knowledge to conscious understanding and to unconscious knowing. Here are a set of principles which apply to the other side of the equation – the learning side

These principles are based on our own experience in Knoco, and there is some overlap with the established “principles of learning” used in the educational field.

Here are our principles

  1. People don’t pay attention to knowledge until they actually need it. People won’t  absorb knowledge until they are ready, and they won’t be ready until they feel the need.  I could give you detailed driving instructions of the quickest way to travel from Cheddar in Somerset  to Woking in Surrey, but you wouldn’t retain them because they are of no immediate value to you. Then one day, you are at a garden party in Cheddar and your boss calls and says “can you get to Woking as quickly as possible, we have a potential big deal to close and I need you here right now”. THEN you will be highly receptive to the knowledge. The consequence of this “attention when needed” is that it is more effective to set up “just in time” knowledge sharing processes than “just in case” knowledge sharing processes(although these also have their place).
  2. People value knowledge that they request, more highly than knowledge that is unsolicited.  I don’t know the psychology behind this, but it seems to be true.  The best way to get knowledge into people’s heads seems to be by answering their questions. The old fashioned “show and tell” is far less effective than “question and answer”, and the blog is less effective than the discussion forum.  The company where the most questions are asked, is often the company that learns the quickest.  This principle is behind the design of most effective knowledge management processes, the majority of which are based on dialogue, and the primary focus of communities of practice should be answering questions rather than publishing ideas.
  3. People won’t use knowledge, unless they trust its provenance.This is the “not invented here” principle, which is a very strong factor in knowledge management terms.  People won’t use knowledge they don’t trust, and they don’t trust knowledge if they don’t know where it has come from.  They need either to trust the individual who gave them the knowledge, or the organisational construct (such as the CoP) which provided the knowledge.  The source may be an expert, or a wiki (many people trust Wikipedia for example, despite its shortcomings), or a community of practice, and building credibility and trust has to be a key activity when building these constructs as part of the knowledge management initiative.
  4. Knowledge has to be reviewed in the user’s own context before it can be received.  One of the knowledge receiver’s first questions is “is this relevant to me?” Everybody always feels their own context is different (even though the difference is often less than assumed), and they need to test the knowledge for relevance before they really pay attention.  We were recently facilitating a peer assist, where people were bringing knowledge from Africa, from India, from China, to be used in an Indonesian context.  For each of the learning points, we needed about half an hour to an hour’s discussion around context, before we could even approach discussion of how imported knowledge might be used. This means that transferring knowledge in a written form is difficult, unless you can introduce a process by which people can interrogate this within their own context
  5. One of the biggest barriers to accepting new knowledge is old knowledge.  This is the curse of prior knowledge. People have to unlearn, before they can learn.  Old assumptions, old habits, “the way we have always done it in the past” may all have to be challenged before people can absorb and make sense of new knowledge.  This can be hard work! As an example, see the story about the war of the hedgerows, where the U.S. Army completely missed the implication of the Normandy hedgerows, assuming that these features would not be a factor in tank and infantry warfare after the D day landings
  6. Knowledge has to be adapted before it can be adopted.  If people are provided with guidance, tips and hints, or even a “recipe to follow,” they will always tweak it and adjust it in order to “make it theirs”.  Sometimes this tweaking and adjusting is necessary to fit the knowledge to their own context; sometimes it is unnecessary in practical terms despite being necessary in emotional terms.  So when you are providing people with guidance, tips and hints or even a “recipe”, you have to give them some idea of where they can still adapt it, and where dangerous tinkering should be avoided. Otherwise they may “adapt” the wrong thing. We see this all the time in our Bird island exercise – they all want to tinker with the final design, and you have to let them tinker, but try to guide them to tinker in non-fatal ways!
  7. Knowledge will be more effective the more personal it is.  The more personal, emotional, and highly charged the learning situation, the more the knowledge will be easily adopted.  Discussion, story telling and coaching can be personal, emotional and highly charged, but it becomes difficult to translate this into the written word.  The use of stories is very helpful, the use of video even more so.  Obviously this has profound implications for knowledge transfer mechanisms.
  8. You won’t really KNOW it until you DO it.  We very often see in lessons learned meetings, teams that say  “we picked up this learning from the previous project, we tried it and it really did work!  That was a great learning for us”.  When they picked it up they knew it intellectually; after they had tried it they knew it practically and emotionally.  Seeing is believing, trying is trusting, doing is internalising.  This sort of positive reinforcement of learning is a massive boost for your knowledge management program; as people try things and find they work, this reinforces the belief that knowledge from others is of real practical value.

Bear these principles in mind in the design of your KM programs, as getting people to seek, use and adopt knowledge is as hard, or harder, than getting people to supply knowledge. 

View Original Source Here.

Skip to toolbar