Working the Network

Keith June 21st, 2007

Patrick Lambe posted some great insights into the power of social networking on actKM yesterday.

He mentioned that the role of much social software – blogs, podcasting, wikis, etc – is to use “… social relationships to help you filter information and ideas meaningfully – ie, make sense of all the “stuff” that’s out there.”

We tend to find our favourite blogs and follow them.  These may be blogs written by people with similar world views to us, or may be blogs that challenge us, but they will tend to be blogs that cover common areas of interest.  By sharing content and views across these loose networks, we help each other to filter out the “stuff” and find interesting new ideas.  This then leads to a wider network, more new ideas.

Patrick tells this story:

“… the other day I noticed a new subscriber to the KM videos I had posted at YouTube.  When I followed his profile link, I found he has his own KM blog, is a fellow Irishman, living 20 miles from my parents’ house in Ireland (where I go to do my writing), working in a bank and doing an MSc in KM.  We’re now having a discussion about dissertation topics, and will likely continue to trade things of interest to each other either via our blogs – and maybe meet for a drink next time I’m over there.”

I have recently struck a potentially similar connection.  After adding a few new people to my LinkedIn network, I received a blog comment from someone I hadn’t previously known, but who has some surprisingly similar interests.  We will be catching up over a coffee in the next week or so.  (Most freaky coincidence – I had only updated my bio page with some of my interests the day before…)

As Patrick goes on to observe – what would be the power of having this happening inside an organisation?

This is happening inside some large organisations.  Where I work here at Telstra, we are just starting on trialling some wiki software (some areas here have been using it for a while).  I am not yet aware of any internal blogs. 

I am still not sure of the likely success of internal blogs here.  As Patrick highlights, you would need “a lot of activity and diversity in the pool…  Think about the difference between the range of ways to meet fascinating people and pursue your interests in a city (public Internet) as compared with a village (company Intranet).”

It would also be hard to convince a corporate decision maker on the value of internal blogging only based on what “might happen” – it is not the sort of hard ROI that people usually look for.  However, it can be very easy to set up some of the necessary software. 

My experience in other KM activities here has been that a “middle-out” growth path has been successful.  Start fairly small – but in a defined, supported environment – and build upwards and outwards as things succeed.  There is no guarantee that this will eventually get corporate sponsorship and recognition, but it is more likely than a totally “grass roots” approach.

Social media also tends to have a “critical mass” element.  Once you make a start, and start to see some successes that can be publicised, you can start to gain the required endorsement to continue.

I’ll give Patrick the last word:

“…I don’t think that the value of social computing comes from ‘managing’ relationships so much as finding ways to ‘stimulate’ relationship building.”

2 Responses to “Working the Network”

  1. Colin Mooneyon 19 Jul 2007 at 9:06 am

    Hi Keith,

    I was wondering if you could email a link to the post on ActKM where Patrick mentioned the story of the you tube subscirber to his KM videos. It just so happens that I am the “fellow Irishman, living 20 miles from my parents’ house in Ireland (where I go to do my writing), working in a bank and doing an MSc in KM” he is refering to!

    Kind regards,
    Colin Mooney

  2. Keithon 19 Jul 2007 at 11:21 am

    Colin -

    The actKM post is here. It was posted on 20 June. You will need to log in to actKM to see the archives.

    Just another example of the blogosphere at work! I would be interested to know how you happened to find my article…

    - Keith.

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