The ultimate aim of knowledge management is to organise, share and bring together information to create value for an organisation. Traditional KM initiatives revolved around technologies, process and governance. Many organisations struggle with the balance between delivering value with their knowledge sharing initiatives and process heavy governance that prevents sharing. Law firms are no different, many are still trying to find answers to simple questions such as:
- How do we capture, store and transfer knowledge?
- How do we exercise the knowledge management concept?
- How do we ensure that knowledge workers share knowledge?
- Who is the expert on oil and gas in Uzbekistan?
Law firms have often relied on lawyers’ previous work and leveraging the knowledge gained on previous transactions, whether that was to create better precedents, improve document automation or just gain a general understanding of managing a matter. However law firms tend to be so document centric they have been blinded by paper and process and have not realised there is something more important in the equation.
Outside of legal there has been a shift in the approach to knowledge management, moving towards a focus on people. This new focus, combined with smart enterprise technology which is focused on the human network is fundamentally changing the way knowledge is created and shared. Knowledge management is changing, and the principle that the organisation’s ability to utilise and share knowledge are important is finally being taken seriously by resources. Yet it has never really delivered to what I would call a shared economy, which will ultimately deliver the objectives that the majority of KM initiatives attempt to achieve – improve an organisation’s productivity, problem solving, creativity, and ultimately profits.
What are the key challenges to traditional KM initiatives?
- A failure to integrate KM into everyday working practices
- A lack of time to learn how to use the system
- A sense that the system was too complicated
- A lack of training
- A sense that there was too little personal benefit in it for the user
- Failure to measure benefits realisation.
What is the definition of ‘social knowledge’?
“Knowledge is embodied in people who form communities and networks. The road to knowledge is via people, conversations, connections and relationships. Knowledge surfaces through dialog, all knowledge is socially mediated and access to knowledge is by connecting to people that know or know who to contact.” Denham Grey
So how can socialising knowledge sharing help?
Modern collaboration tools provide many advantages over traditional enterprise software. Many are influenced by the consumer world and have great user experiences. The majority are cloud-based and therefore are accessible anywhere at any time. Importantly they emphasise the human network and the people tasked with doing the work, so sharing knowledge is an automatic by-product, and not an additional step.
Five ways these ‘social’ tools can help KM projects or initiatives
1. Knowledge sharing is a by-product of work. Systems that allow for the creation and sharing of content in a single action mean that sharing is systematic, not adhoc
2. Finding knowledge is no longer a chore. Flexible notifications within the system allow you to follow subject matter experts, content types, projects or matters or tags, both online and via email
3. Create communities of practice to ensure dialogue is natural and without boundaries
4. There is greater emphasis on listening over speaking
5. Social tools can provide that ‘peripheral awareness’ of what is happening on a transaction or within a community, allowing you to get a feel for a project if you’ve been busy working on something else or if you’ve been on annual leave, for example.
There is a clear trend outside of legal that social tools can help unlock knowledge and promote sharing within your organisation. Isn’t it time to leverage the human network of your firm?