IMG_2568KM is knowledge management; a term most people who don’t work in KM likely don’t understand, and even those who do work in the field may only have a tenuous grasp of as it is broad in scope and esoteric in meaning. In effect, knowledge management is about the creation, curation, and maintenance of organizational information. Once relegated to documentation and knowledge bases, it now encompasses wikis, forums, blogs, and other social engagement as well.

In my years of working as a knowledge manager, the biggest failure I’ve encountered has been the implementation of quotas as a method to solve a problem of content gaps in knowledge bases. While mandated quota systems will indeed work to generate more  content, we discovered the quality and relevancy of that content wasn’t hitting the mark. The problem we were trying to solve wasn’t that we needed more content, rather we needed the right  content, the right information for our clients available at the right time. Quotas only solved the amount of content, and did nothing to drive creation of relevant and useful content.

The same lesson can be seen in social business today. Where many companies and corporations are mandating social participation and seeing increased activity, they aren’t hitting the mark of being a true social business. While mandates will drive increased activity, it misses the mark like km quotas before it: the right activity is lost to mere quantity. Mandates and incentives don’t drive the right behaviours, only increased activity. What is needed is not more voices in the social media worlds saying the same thing; rather we need the right voices sharing their knowledge for the benefit of others.  Instead of quotas and mandates and incentives we need a shift in corporate culture that is focused on encouraging and supporting the right behaviours: the effective sharing of knowledge and innovation to aid the success of all.

Enabling and encouraging those who have both the expertise and passion for what they do, showing how the right knowledge shared benefits everyone, and creating a culture of openness that not only allows for social participation but sees it as a key part of everyone’s job role will start to shift us away from those old KM failures towards true social success. This is not a top-down need, nor is it a bottom up grass-roots effort any more. Now, more than ever, the entire company hierarchy has a responsibility to drive the right behaviours, to create the right culture that supports the new way of business.

This quote from Brian Solis‘ article on the Death of Social Business sums up the need and call to action quite nicely:

“So while some of us are getting ready to attend the funeral for Social Business, many are pushing onward to what’s next. Whatever we end up calling it is not the important thing. What really matters is freeing every human asset to be free of fear, uncertainty and doubt so they may achieve their greatest potential in life and in work. A connected society is a better society, with mutual benefit from our interdependence making the world more tolerant, more livable and more prosperous.”

Indeed, whatever we call it, we must learn from our past failures and move forward the right way, the connected and human way.