Feeling soft and mushy about Social Intranets

Posted: July 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Business, Social Media, Work | No Comments »

These thoughts are quite preliminary, soft and mushy – but I needed to get them down. I’ve been thinking about an opportunity to create an enterprise intranet from scratch – where the current state is so poor that it might well be abandoned and started afresh as a clean slate. I imagine a workplace with a small number of pillars – communications, HR, carefully selected document stores and maybe the major products – but structuring everything else around social networking models. Throw away the org charts and imposed architectures and let people organize and communicate across disciplines or channels as needed, and base the tools on connections rather than ‘knowledge’ – just like the real workplace.

I like the idea of a solution that supports collaborative creation of knowledge as compared to retrieval of old knowledge. In my experience, corporate knowledge is embodied in its workers, not stored. I don’t gain knowledge when I access a document. I’m in possession of an asset that requires context and community to make it live, and that contextualization comes from people. Even if  all that meta information could be captured, it would be frozen in a moment of time. Pragmatically speaking, document stores aren’t kept up to date at the speed of business (sorry, I know it’s a cop of a Bill Gates book title) and as a result what I learn about some asset could be badly out of alignment with the state of business right now.

My next step is thinking about knowledge assets themselves – where does their greatest value to an organization  lie and how do we identify and extract that value from an online social context? How do we make these knowledge assets accessible while  keeping them social through connections to the community of thinkers that generated them and at the same time ensure their visibility outside the community of practice or interest that nurtured it? How do we avoid the repository trap of sending people through volumes of misaligned, out-of-date data that risks diminishing value? I keep thinking that social is the answer – please weigh in.