Human Centricity, Social Media and the Knowledge Enterprise

Gen Y’ers are also much more at ease with diversity, across economic, ethnic, gender, and cognitive-style strata. They are hence easily connecting with other people in other parts of the planet and anyone with a common interest or goal becomes a friend in the online world. They also like exploring and learning new things with an open mind, and are even cultivating their value systems through online interaction. From a content perspective, such a shift in behavior is creating more comfort with unstructured or loosely structured content generation, and a receptiveness to collaboration.

The ‘Prosumer’

In this brave new world the separate roles of producers and consumers of knowledge are merging and the age of the “prosumer” is at hand where people collectively generate and consume knowledge and everyone eats their own dog food. Collaborative technologies are allowing people to not only discuss issues and fuel the decision making process through collective gathering of views and opinions, but also create an explicit form of social memory. Social memory can be defined as what is known and understood in a social network.

For example, people who are socially involved in the deliberations

for making a decision often have the deep insight into the reasons for

making that decision. They have an understanding of each others’ viewpoints and feelings, as well. However, others not directly involved in the decision making process often only get communication of the outcome of the decision and don’t have an understanding of what went into the decision making process. There is no evidence available to them of what transpired and why. And in today’s empowered world, people spring into action only when they truly understand the reasoning underlying decisions more thoroughly. By creating an explicit form of social memory online, people can understand the “why” of certain decisions, and even get more involved in the decision making process itself. This applies to not only tactical issues at

a project team level, but strategic issues at an organizational level as well.

This significantly improves the quality of information available to people, and clarifies the context within which people are expected to act, which enhances buy-in, and creates a common alignment in purpose and direction. Social media then not only allows for conversations, but creates more inclusion overall. This is part of the reason that the open source movement has become so widespread and powerful.

Innovation also is fueled by social networking. There is a growing

opinion that innovation is fueled by an open and collaborative process which taps into the collective know-how of a community to not only come up with ideas, but to collectively transform those ideas into inventions and innovations. The success of the open source movement is a good example of this. Different people pitch in at different times in the process of creating open source software, balancing diverse collective thinking with collective action. And studies have shown that by creating a community of lead users and allowing them to interact, new demand itself is generated tapping into potential blue oceans.

Customer communities are allowing companies to simply listen and observe and sense trends ahead of time. Innovation, is a largely a social phenomena, and the flattening of the world is accelerating the pace through an increased capacity for connecting people.

Harnessing Knowledge

So what does this all mean to the enterprise whose ability to harness

knowledge and build capability is a core strategic issue? They must

reconsider and redraft their knowledge strategy for this “2.0” world. From a nuts and bolts perspective, the traditional deployment of centralized content management systems will have to be merged with this newer phenomena of community-driven content generation. The process-driven approach has to be merged with a people-driven approach and strategically backed by technology to make it a widespread reality.