Social Media Usage as a Knowledge Creation Tool

by Michael Haberman on February 22, 2012 · 17 comments

I was having a discussion with a group of HR people the other day on the value of social media in the workplace. The group ran the gamut from “totally on board” to “don’t see the value of it” to “just plain afraid of it”. It is no secret of my point of view on the value of social media, in fact I have just started dabbling in Pinterest due to a blog written by my friend Todd Schnick (Why It Is Worth Giving Pinterest A Look). I have, however, not spent too much time on social media use as a knowledge creation tool, especially through an intranet.

In their book The 2020 Workplace, Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd, discuss stages of what they call “über-connections”. In this discussion they relate the story of a company called Cerner which had an environment “…where knowledge was created in a single-threaded fashion, often by a single expert.” The quote an executive as saying “In this environment much of our current knowledge was locked behind password-protected Web sites, guarded in organizational silos, lost in e-mail inboxes, or stored on individual laptops.” I imagine that many organizations reflect this same situation, particularly those that fall into the negative categories I described above.

The Cerner executive, Robert Campbell, the chief leaning officer, went on to describe how they changed their methods and increased innovation through the use of social media use. He said “We decided to change the way we collaborated on projects. We saw a need to create a more of an open culture and dramatically accelerate the cycle time of innovation throughout our company and client base.” As a result they built an internal social media platform that is incorporated into a customizable home page for each employee. This allows them to e-mail, post comment on blogs, share expertise, get needed documents, access wikis, check relevant learning programs and share their work on projects. Senior executives participate as much as other employees and everyone is encouraged to answer other associates’ questions that are posted on discussion boards.

The company also created new positions for this process called “community gardeners” who are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring adoption of the social media intranet. We talked about this in our discussion the other day as well, that there are positions being created for HR professionals in internal social media usage. If you are such a person you have an opportunity to encourage knowledge creation. Cerner has found it to be successful with “…. a host of business benefits, such as reduced cycle time for innovation, greater ability to share knowledge across the enterprise, improved access to knowledge experts, and decreased time to market for new products….”

So for you naysayers on the use of social media, you need to realize that the value of social media use far outweighs the negatives. Sure, they must be thought out and vetted. Policies have to be created, legal issues need to be thought through, and guidelines need to be created, but the impact it can have on a company’s culture, and its bottomline can be tremendous.

Anyone out there interested in telling us your story? Good or bad?

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