Knowledge Management – most popular!

Following my last blog on ‘space for sharing’, I was reminded of another strange tale of how knowledge sharing hopes can be dashed. This concerns a system designed to facilitate sharing across the globe. In a charity where I was researching their knowledge management, a new intranet was implemented.  It was designed to get staff exchanging ‘explicit’ knowledge (or information via documents and website recommendations) as well as to connect people within the organisation.

This was to be a key part of the knowledge sharing focus of their strategy. The intranet included new facilities like a ‘most popular’ page and the intranet coordinator was proud to say this feature had raised a great deal of interest when the system was new.

But sadly, as time went by, the ‘most popular’ page was always the same. Staff continued to look at it out of curiosity.  As they rarely looked at anything else, this resulted in that particular page holding on to its top spot forever!  So instead of keeping up the thrill threshold with a series of pages on the latest news or the fiercest controversy, their static ‘most popular’ page became an embarrassing indication of how little the system was used.

The key to the failure of this intranet to become a true sharing system was not a technology problem, and not difficult to spot.  The same technology works effectively in other similar organisations.  The crucial difficulty was that senior staff openly mocked and derided the intranet and did not use it themselves. So it was not really a surprise that it had great difficulty making any impact among other staff.

As we heard in the last blog, virtual knowledge sharing is not easy and will need considerable extra effort and support. It was a shame Paul Corney’s words had not reached the senior staff at this organisation.

When the  ‘most popular’ page remains the same for month after month, you know you have a problem.  At the very least, change the criteria – perhaps to ‘the most popular and recently uploaded’ new page! How painful to see that people’s curiosity would turn to mirth as they realised why this page had remained the most popular.  And what a travesty to find that there was a total lack of genuinely exciting content to instigate a surge of thrilled or shocked viewers to knock the old favourite off its perch.

We all know intranets can reveal problems within an organisation.  The newly fashionable social media ‘hubs’ for internal communication will no doubt find their own pitfalls.  But asking humans to share constructively, across silos and international seas, needs a great deal more than simply finding a functioning, cold, hard, technology system.

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