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Why social knowledge networks are doomed to succeed

According to a Gartner Hype Cycle report, “KM is something you do, not something you buy.” While this is very true, it misses a key issue surrounding the emergence of social media as a powerful KM enabler.

In its infancy, KM implementations involved software which would capture knowledge and then provide data access. However, if you did not accompany the implementation with a Dilbert-like missive from the boss saying, "If you don’t add something to the KM system every day, you're fired," then the KM system was DOOMED to failure.

Why was this the case? Because sharing knowledge and playing nice with colleagues is not always natural for many humans, and only the threat of ex-communication from the hive would cause people to behave as you would like. In short, many people have had a "what's in it for me" approach, and thus many traditional KM systems have failed.

However, social knowledge networks are now DOOMED to succeed for exactly the same reasons that tradition KM systems were doomed to fail. In a social knowledge network, the construct and mechanism for sharing is social media. The Internet has trained and rewarded millions of users on the joy of sharing. We are now living in a culture of sharing. (Sometimes as we can all see on YouTube, for instance, a bit too much sharing.)

Book reviews, hotel reviews, how to videos, my opinion, my blog, my video, my tags, etc. A social knowledge network uses these social media mechanisms to capture knowledge and enrich the KM system.

And the best part is that if humans choose not play, we don’t care! We only need a small fraction of the community to be active sharers, and the system works great. A social knowledge network succeeds because it does not need to change people's behaviors and it does not need everyone to share.

So, as we move out of the past and into the new social reality, I think we can all agree that KM is important. It is the key driver in the information economy that we all live in. KM is now DOOMED to succeed, if implemented with care and thought, using social tools to capture knowledge and share it.

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