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Shifting from expertise management to expertise support

There's an important shift happening in the KM industry surrounding the notion of expertise. Rawn Shah tapped into it in his recent Forbes article. I tried to post a comment on his piece, but for some reason, the comment wasn't taking, so I wanted to post my thoughts here.

First, the headline of Rawn's article is "Shifting The Imperative From Knowledge Management To Expertise Management." But after I read it, I think an alternative title might be "Shifting The Imperative From Knowledge Management To Expertise Support."

I think the distinction between management and support is key. Rawn touches upon this in his article, writing,"To keep with historical terminology, we still call this expertise management, even though what you are not doing is actually managing people directly, but rather facilitating and supporting them to build their talent and capability. Neither does it require them to be absolute experts; it is a relative scale depending upon scope."

I'll take this one step further to say support is more in line with today's social practices. Experts' roles today might be defined in much looser terms than bygone times. And support of experts, rather than management of them, allows variations in levels of expertise and location.

For example, traditionally, experts might earn their title based on credentials. Ph.D. CPA. And that includes trade positions, too, such as plumbers and electricians. But today, experts might have field experience and savvy that puts them at the top of in-the-know lists. It's important for social knowledge management applications to let both kinds bubble up and be accessible to individuals throughout an organization.

This also means that customers can also be considered experts within an organization's community. Not all information and knowledge management resides within the firewall -- and customer input on product features, functionality, and experience can benefit the product development lifecycle.

Ultimately, I think this shows where organizational priorities are headed. As Rawn says, "The maturity of a social businesses hinges on the ability to develop a competitive advantage through better systems that drive the collective, and not just individual, talent and eminence of the organization."

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