In brief: the “knowledge sharing disease”!
When we were growing up, most of us discovered the world surrounded by adventurous friends and the wisdom of our grandparents. I personally never questioned how we learn. It was the most natural thing to learn from the people around me. Later in school and university things changed. Acquiring knowledge became a duty and factual knowledge was king. Then, when I faced the business world, knowledge became a competitive advantage and collecting it, being ahead of others, appeared to be the championship everyone is interested in.
But wait! Could we please stop for a moment! What has actually changed? We still learn from people around us! It’s just that there are more people around, because connectedness has increased a lot. And yes, it’s now about competition. But wasn't this also the case when we were challenging each other on the playground? Of course it was! And at these days it was also about togetherness and solidarity. We all enjoyed a well-balanced dance between competition and collaboration - a natural sense of rhythm which seems to be lost at the majority of today’s enterprises.
In brief: openly appreciating the people we have learned from!
Maybe a naive vision, but why don't we give it a try: let us apply the principles and tools of Web 2.0 to rediscover appreciation, to foster a more natural approach of competition and collaboration that will bring us back into balance. Let us create appreciative networks! Networks that are based on the fundamentals that we make a compliment to the people we have learned from. Networks that are avoiding major mistakes of management, since they
- do not try to extract knowledge from people
- do not rely on codified knowledge
- do not aim at unification
Following these considerations, we have created a tool to test the idea and visualize the flow of knowledge as it has been valued by the community (see the video below). The exciting question: will people shift their focus from promoting their expertise to openly appreciating the people who have crossed their way when developing this expertise – and how can we enable this? The answer: hope for idealism and altruism but accept the prevalence of self-interest and use the power of each employee’s personal goals.
Our simple but (hopefully) powerful idea: create knowledge relationships by plainly stating “I have learned from you!” With respect to social software, the novel aspect is that this networking process is initiated from the knowledge receiver’s side. Contrary to other professional networks, we want to encourage people highlighting their “Haves” by identifying and mentioning the original source of knowledge. This sounds like a tiny difference but it makes a tremendous change (as far as we can see)!
In brief: improved collaboration (with all its benefits)!
Creating appreciative networks will support the above mentioned moonshots. Essentially, the outlined idea will have the following impacts:
- By appreciating what we learn from others, we take time to reflect. We will increase trust and reduce fear and thus build resilient relationships. These personal relationships make our “knowledge tribe”, our individual network which can help us in many (business) situations. From a corporate perspective, the sum of individual, highly interrelated networks will go beyond organizational boundaries and consequently help disaggregating the organization, making it a more flexible and scalable system.
- By getting appreciation for what others have learned from us, we can hope for an infusion of positive energy and knowledge sharing will become what it deserves to be.
- By highlighting the people rather than extracting their knowledge, we move towards a more human organization. This kind of organization is built on individuals who are allowed to make a difference and who are not immediately replaceable. For some enterprises this would mean a big shift of paradigms, since they rather believe in roles and types than in persons and instances.
In greater detail, we can summarize the following practical impacts
On an individual level:
- Get a compliment from the (virtual) community
- Build rewarding relationships with others by making a compliment
- Become an acknowledged expert on certain topics (even if you are not showcasing yourself)
- Manage your own network (people you have learned from / who have learned from you)
- Explore the “knowledge tribes” of other people and find out from whom they have learned
- For specific questions / topics: find knowledge owners who are geographically close to you
- Take a journey through time and space and play back how your knowledge and networks have developed
On an organizational level:
- Identify hidden champions (the “silent” employees)
- Innovate by using the creative dynamics of complex networks
- Highlight the best knowledge sharers (instead of the “formally best experts”)
- Take a look behind the org chart and identify corporate relationships between single employees that actually work (e.g. for staffing a project or similar)
- Find out how knowledge is valued and distributed in your organization
- Use the above listed information to implement holistic performance measuring, accepting flexible hierarchies and capabilities of people we could not see before
In brief: start experimenting!
The good thing is that you can start with it right away. You, in your organization, now! And that’s the process, which we would like to invite you to:
- Think about a person from whom you have learned something. This could be anything but it must be a somehow important lesson.
- Make an honest compliment to this person.
- Envision developing your individual network of appreciation. Reflect what you have learned and the persons who helped you. Understand this development as a journey.
- Make more compliments. Let’s see when you get your first pleasant replies.
- Once you positively experience compliments, share the idea. Invite other people to join the journey and help creating more interrelated individual networks.
- Analyze the quality and diversity of your network. What are the people you learn most and best from? How deep and broad is the knowledge you share, how many professions and cultures are involved? In which direction would you like to expand?
- Aim and hope for the momentum of enabling a community of passion.
- Meet us and join your fellow networkers for experience exchange. We are planning two events in Brussels and Berlin in the beginning of 2012. We are expecting a few hundred participants and would love to bring local and international communities together.
- Use our software tool “Complido” (will be available in Q4 2011) to visualize and manage your networking. Let us know how we can improve the software to support your endeavor.
- If you like to test Complido on an enterprise-wide scale, let us know. We are looking for more organizations which are willing to experiment and open for emergent processes.
To Dee, Dave, Gary, Lynda, Otto, Peter, Tom, Umair, Christian and many more who inspired us on our learning journey. The travelers are Frank, Karen, Jörg, and Johannes accompanied by dear friends and partners! Very special thanks to Johannes; without last year’s BBQ and your persistent passion Complido would never exist!