Winning strategies for workplace knowledge management

Opening the door to social media and information-sharing can propel your organization beyond the status quo

The 21st century is an era of breaking down the walls in the traditional workplace, a movement fueled by changing technology and doctrine. Today the explosion in avenues of communication means everyone has a voice and wants to be heard, and the office is no exception. The result is a flood of innovation that can boost an organization's production and morale exponentially.

Channeling all of the new information, tools, input and methodology means actively practicing the art of knowledge management. But how do you know if it’s being done right in your workplace?

“If we can harness [the organization’s] internal wisdom on one platform in one space, we can find answers to questions we didn’t even know we asked,” said Jack Holt, Defense Department senior strategist for emerging media. “That’s the power of the network.”

It can be hard to determine whether it’s being done right because the movement is new and evolving rapidly; so are the tools used in knowledge management. Social media is a catch-all phrase for ways to give everyone a voice, but what platform is right for a given environment? And how can all those voices be incorporated into a product or solution?

The vast array of options and issues can be daunting, but experts say if you’re practicing knowledge management, you’re already on the right track.

“Everybody has something to bring to the table. Maybe it’s not what you were originally looking for, but it’s still valuable. You’re still making knowledge from the intelligence you’re gathering,” Holt said.

Holt and other industry experts spoke May 4 at the Knowledge Management 2010 Conference, produced by 1105 Government Information Group, in Washington.

According to Don Burke, CIA Intellipedia doyen, there are three characteristics of effective and beneficial knowledge management in the workplace:

  • The environment is vibrant: “People are active. You know a good party when you walk into one.”
  • It’s a social atmosphere: “Everyone is working together.” The personal silos and compartmentalization aren’t present.
  • It’s relevant and real work is getting done: “It’s not a conversation about football or LOLcats,” Burke said.

Another important aspect of harnessing knowledge management is making the tools and platform available, and encouraging participation. It’s all about creating a vibrant community, said Alex Voultepsis, chief technology officer for the IC-CIO/Intelink Enterprise Collaboration Center in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “Don’t discriminate. Transcend the artificial barriers like office or agency or organization.”

Still, the first step of getting onboard the knowledge-management train is perhaps the most important.

“If nothing else, [practicing knowledge management] shows that the tools can be successful if you enable them,” Burke said. “The challenge is how to grow [the tools] and transition into something successful.”

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