Knowledge Management and Marketing: “Sharing” a Link

It used to be that Knowledge Management and Marketing are too very disparate functions with clear training and education needed to differentiate one professional from another. I think there is a lot of overlap between these two jobs, specifically in two areas:

  1. The use of social media to capture, share and create interaction over content
  2. One can directly feed the other

I’m not going to focus on social media so much in this entry but the second point. For consulting firms especially the process of internal knowledge management to capture and leverage intellectual capital can directly be reused for marketing purposes.

A large part of consulting firm’s Marketing/PR strategy is based on case studies – what have you done for XYZ company, what were the results and how can that help my company. A consulting firm’s KM strategy should focus a lot on story capturing and storytelling to help make selling more powerful and creation of client deliverables more efficient.

These same stories captured for internal use can be used for external marketing purposes provided you have permission from the client. Here is a potential flow of what I call the SHARE concept:

Storytelling to Help Acquire (our knowledge), Recognize (our employees) and Expand (our business)

SHARE

Can KM and AR work together?

I love to read – Harvard Business Review and Fast Company being my favorite business reads; FBI crime thrillers my favorite leisure read. Sandra Brown and Catherine Coulter really know how to write engaging dialogue! I used to just skim Fast Company for big ideas but I have been reading most of the articles now because while they may not be completely related to my profession as a communicator, I find that in every technology, innovation and green article, there is something I can take away about what the future may hold. And, I challenge myself to draw connections and be forward-thinking.

In November’s issue, an article on Augmented Reality (AR) caught my eye, and I put my futurist hat on to think about the link between Knowledge Management and AR. AR is the technology concept where you can be visiting Paris, walking by the Eiffel Tower and your device will know where you are based on GPS and display historical information about the Eiffel Tower. I would be nervous if I was a tour guide.

What an astounding concept for knowledge management! Imagine if we could retrieve information about people that way…the new augmented expertise locator! Or, embed information about a system, process or experience this way. It wouldn’t depend on GPS because these are not tangible items like the Eiffel Tower but if they could depend on simple inputs like voice instead of GPS.

I could say: “Close deal with UPS.” And, videos of people telling stories could be downloaded to my mobile device telling me how to do that, a screen listing hot buttons about UPS, bios of decision-makers, and the list goes on and on.

What we can’t avoid is even with the convenience of AR, there still has to be someone who creates content. The ease in which we access that information can be aided by mobile devices, cloud computing and other technology but content will continue to be king.

Tag and Ye Shall Find?

MagnifyingGlassI just read a good summary of taxonomies (formal, forced-choice method to categorize information) vs. folksonomies (organic tagging method to organize information) in KM World; this author felt they were not equal and definitely not interchangeable. I am really glad someone has formally stated that.

Tagging does not necessarily create a repeatable, easy-to-find organizational structure. Tagging is great if your objective is to raise the most popular items to the top, which might work for certain organic sharing like in forums, blogs or social network sites. I have played with both and have found that there still is a need to have a standard classification method to help people find information especially for formally published items, like documents.

Now, that standard taxonomy must be maintained, reviewed and updated to reflect new products, programs and vernacular within an organization. Too often, a taxonomy is set and forgotten about until five years later no one can find anything because a product is no longer called “value statement” but, rather, “value proposition”.

One way to compensate for those changes is to create a synonym in your search tool so that they equal each other. This is why I am such a big fan of search. However, in the workplace, I have observed that many people prefer to browse over search.  Yet, in their personal lives, they would never browse the Internet, they use Google. This is a really astounding phenomenon to me and one that deserves a good deal of change management attention.

Until internal search becomes perfected, a sound taxonomy is needed but so is tagging. I still balance both. I ask users to select a formal category but also allow them to free-form tag the document as well. Those tags provide valuable insight into how people might search for information and how we may need to evolve the taxonomy!

Want True Collaboration? Wikify!

The most common question I get about web 2.0 tools is when should we use a wiki? I find this question most interesting. Even though Twitter has been around a lot less time than wikis, it seems like companies have figured out Twitter’s place in their tool box but wikis are still a head-scratcher.

We are so document-centric that it is difficult to understand how wikis could or should fit into the content management – collaboration puzzle. With most wiki software, you can attach files to a page within a wiki but I would not recommend using a wiki as a primary document storage vehicle. Instead, wikis are the ultimate collaboration tool, in my opinion.

When we think of the word “collaboration”, we think of working together, co-creation, teams and even innovation. Wikis are the perfect tool to enable the process of collaboration but require TRUST. To change others’ content, the users of a wiki need to trust each other that if something he or she wrote is deleted or edited, that the person making the change knows better. We also need to have thick skin to accept those changes. Most of us have come a long way from getting deflated at the sight of intimidating red ink our school papers, but one needs to foster a culture that can handle true co-creation just in case!

There can be no ego when using a wiki. Titles are checked at the door when you log in and every person’s opinion counts. If your culture does not accept this then wikis will be difficult to implement but not impossible. Sometimes, it takes new tools like this to prove efficiency and creativity to actually change a culture from being overly hierarchical to more collaborative.

The process requires commitment; the satisfaction is realized in the end result of a great piece of work co-created by many qualified minds. Below are some great applications for wikis:

  • Company Policies: collaboration on a small team (usually Legal and/or HR)
  • Training Guide: collaboration among a specific discipline or management level
  • Lessons Learned Repository: collaboration among one or more project teams
  • Best-Practice Language: collaboration among a project team (document assembly on the cheap)
  • Knowledge Capture/Transfer: collaboration among retiring / exiting population and future population
  • Institutional Knowledge Base: collaboration across the enterprise (great for acronyms, definitions and resource sharing)

Should Knowledge Management be Defined Consistently?

This is a tough question to answer and my response may be met with some criticism. To gain a firm foothold in business…the answer should be yes. We should pick a direction and vision and go with it. That is what we SHOULD do but that may not be the best strategy.

I have held two “defined” Knowledge Management (KM) positions in my career (after spending 10 years in Training & Development) and while they had similarities, there were definite differences. I think KM is whatever the organization needs it to be.

Now, this is frustrating for KM and business leaders because we all can’t give the same elevator speech about what we do. Some may argue, if we can’t define ourselves as an industry, aren’t we vulnerable to cuts in a downturn? Not necessarily…I think by not having a consistent definition, we allow ourselves flexibility. And, in times like these, I believe that’s an important attribute to have.

As a KM Practitioner, under the KM umbrella, I have managed, at various times, the following activities:

CONTENT

Company Intranet / Web site; Document Management Technology, Processes and Policies; Information Security Policies; Records Management; SharePoint Technology Implementation and Support

COLLABORATION

Social Media (Blogs, Microblogs, Wikis, RSS Feeds, Social Bookmarking, etc.); Innovation and Idea Sharing; Communities of Practice; Best-Practice Sharing

COMMUNICATION

Internal Employee Communication; PR and Marketing; IM, Email, Blogs and other Communication Technology Tools

FACILITATION

Process Improvement; Performance Management; Strategic Planning; Learning & Development

So, is KM the “Miscellaneous” in an organization’s org chart? Sometimes yes; sometimes no. And, we, as KM Practitioners, need to embrace the ambiguity. Isn’t our tolerance for the “gray” and love of diversity the reason we choose this amorphous field?