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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Creating a Super Water Cooler

Looking at some trends of profile keywords on LinkedIn, I found that "Knowledge Management" is slightly on the way down (-2% year-over-year), while "Enterprise Social Networking" (ESN) is strongly on the rise (+25%). Not so surprising, actually. While an ESN covers some aspects of knowledge sharing it is a relatively new buzz word, that describes a specific aspect in the wider realm of having people exchange their knowledge. 

The following video titled Knowledge Sharing is Power (found via the latest Knowledge Street Newsletter) builds a great case for using ESNs to enable a flow of knowledge within an organization using an easy to use flexible platform. ESNs, in a way, help to scale what usually happens in short conversations at the water-cooler, in the coffee room or lunch facilities, but with some added possibilities to go off into a side room to keep discussing (the concepts of groups or communities of practice within an ESN). The scaling happens along the axis of no. of people involved as well as the location they might be residing in. So in a way it is a like a big virtual water cooler. 

There are some differences however:
1. With the scaling of participants and "rooms" comes a certain need for management, through somebody like a Community Manager and other roles.
2. As it is digital there is usually some data available that can be analyzed to get a feeling on the business performance of the ESN.
3. The number of involved parties also scales the number of ideas presented, the number of comments somebody might receive on an idea and the speed at which knowledge could spread. 
4. While pretty much everything is transient at the real life water cooler (unless you install some cameras), an ESN can offer some persistence, i.e. recording of discussions, questions and their answers etc. 

There are more and maybe you want to comment on some of the ones you have experienced. 

One thing that both have in common is a certain danger of distraction, i.e. whether you stand in the coffee room for hours or get distracted by an ESN, both might happen and could lead to loss in productivity. But if the right balance is reached between benefit and distraction there is a lot to gain, whether it is a 15Min coffee-break or discussing topics a few times a day via an ESN. 

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