Social & the 5lb bag

Let’s face it. Social is hitting mainstream. More and more people are contributing, but is it knowledge? If it is knowledge, how long is it knowledge before it becomes outdated and useless? How many people go back and update a contribution they’ve made to a social platform more than a week ago when the information changes? What happens when someone makes a decision based on misinformation? Knowledge workers are doing much more of their collaboration in unstructured ways and in many cases starting to fill up the bag. At what point is it too much? Will search engine optimization ever really solve this problem in a company’s intranet?

All of these challenges are byproducts of Social Business and a highly contributive workforce. These are most likely the next challenges many social software vendors and early adopters are going to face as we mature through mainstream adoption. While one of the key business values it to build institutional knowledge, I am not confident just piling new information on top of old will do more than make it harder to find the answers you need. Some think recommendation engines may be the next step, but that only solves part of the problem. It does nothing to help you find answers, and only potentially alerts you to things that might interest you.

How many times have you searched for something and found a thread describing the problem you are having only to see 50 or even 100 responses? What do you do? Do you jump to the end hoping the thread ended with a solution? Even if it’s been tagged as a “Correct Answer”, has something changed since then? Do you go through the thread and try the actions being suggested, only to break something worse? These are all symptoms of TMI (Too Much Information). Now let’s focus on how that can get better by focusing on a company’s greatest asset; its employees.

One of my earliest jobs was doing desktop support. This was a mostly thankless job. We’d often get asked the same question time and time again. There was a dread that we had to spend our time doing this. Why? Because there was rarely any appreciation. IT and Desktop Support were seen as a necessary evil (even in the old days). Even when there was an FAQ (a product developed out of being asked the same question over and over), it was easier to call and ask then to look for the answer. Skip ahead 20 years and enter the Enterprise Social Network (ESN).

On these ESN’s, people are sharing knowledge and helping each out in near real-time. Often people gladly answer the same question time and time again. Why? In this case, there’s a question which needs to be answered. People who answer correctly are providing value to the community and getting a little bit of dopamine in the process but more importantly it’s appreciated. Let’s face it, we always appreciate the person who has what we need, when we need it. In the process they are building reciprocity and trust in the network. All of these components make up a healthy ESN. That is not to say we don’t need to keep refining information flows and looking for ways to find experts and topics you know the answer to. But to make it even trickier, we have to ensure in this filtering, we don’t lose the serendipity many of us get delighted over.

I’ve heard a lot of discussion lately around “System of Record” vs. “System of Engagement”. Can your social platform ever become your system of record? I’m not sure, but if so, the challenges to get there are going to be great. What is clear is systems of engagement will be generating knowledge, but what’s not clear is how that knowledge gets promoted to the system of record.

Where will you find your answers in the future? I’d love to hear.

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