As previously discussed, the advent of social media has brought fundamental change to the norms of knowledge transfer. Hereticalpoetical suggested on February 28th that “Creating, sharing, and transferring knowledge is inherently human, existing in our realities and relationships.” This, I think, rings of truth–and if knowledge transfer is so fundamental to our nature, how notable must such a broadening be? The river of knowledge has branched into an endless web of interconnected streams.
Nor is this some vague thing which can only be discussed in generalities and poetry, we can see in each innovation the exact ways in which it expands our capability to communicate meaningfully. To examine these, it is perhaps best to begin with the concept of WEB 2.0. Levy discusses what, exactly, it is. Some elements have more to do with implementation and design; that is, to understand that WEB 2.0 is a content-centered platform for service development. More importantly from a human-oriented concern with knowledge transfer, it requires the active participation of users in a constant effort to improve services, valuing even the smallest and most delayed actions as an important part of the whole (2009).
These principles which Levy outlines should be rather familiar in light of recent posts: once more we see emphasized the import of “ordinary” people as agents in knowledge transfer, the idea that there is value in what a single unsupported individual chooses to transmit to others. Before, we discussed the “how” in general terms regarding social media and similar advances making such communication possible. Now, in the context of the underlying principles of WEB 2.0 and social media, we see something of the why. It is a new recognition of the fact that the bleeding edge of innovators are not the whole of human society, nor even necessarily the most important or influential part. Just as that argument is used as the economic basis for supporting this perspective, so too does it recognize the social and knowledge-oriented perspective that one does not have to have substantial resources or powerful backers to be worthy of disseminating knowledge beyond one’s immediate social circles.
Now that we have arrived at the point, perhaps we should turn back briefly for a more detailed look at the ways in which different aspects of these technologies allow for such changes to be effected? The wiki model is one of the more well-known and widespread examples of WEB 2.0 thinking at work. Frankly, Grace describes them as elegantly as I could ever hope to, dubbing the wik…
…a democratic, accessible community of users responsible for its own content, supported by an open model of knowledge creation and communication. Wikis in particular embodies the highest attainable information sharing dream of an organization where a group of its members is voluntarily and unselfishly collaborating and creating knowledge and working towards a common goal to benefit the organization. (2009)
Recall earlier posts on the importance of effective, efficient knowledge transfer within organizations to those organizations. Here we see some of the impetus behind the rapid development of this broad expanse of technological development, brushed lightly by some of the articles discussed in the most recent post: it is not only propelled forward by a sea of individuals who find self-worth and enjoyment from it, or by ideologically motivated people of education, but also by the realization in some sectors of the realms of business and politics that internally motivated systems of knowledge transfer are quite often to their benefit.
Yuan et al. offer additional support for this, examining various other tools (some older, some among this recent expansion) in the same vein within the context of their potential utility for a multinational business. Their findings, notably, parallel non-scholarly observations of the utility of social media, noting that, among other things, direct personal contact in the physical world is still seen as the most effective method for transferring tacit knowledge, which is supported in a number of other contexts (2013)–recall the example of AMTC, in which tacit knowledge was often transferred by physically relocating employees for cross-training (Wang & Lu 2010)–while explicit knowledge is often considered to be more consistently transferable through digital means (2013).
Another response received by Yuan et al. from their interviews with the same employees was a fairly consistent agreement that the quality of integration of these knowledge transfer technologies was more important than their quantity. Most importantly, they note that:
When compared with both communication tools and
long-standing KM tools, interviews showed that social
media can better address challenges to knowledge sharing. (2013)
The primary reasons cited for this are heightened interpersonal understanding, and the role of closer relationships in encouraging the sharing of useful knowledge and skills (2013).
So, we have not turned back at all! Rather, it seems that the specifics of how this type of social media or that in particular operates is ignorable in the context of broad-view knowledge transfer. What matters most is commonly held amongst all: they strengthen the bonds between users, transforming knowledge-sharing from a burden into an activity which is both socially desirable and of meaningful utility.
It is as hereticalpoetical implied: knowledge transfer is a human thing. The brilliance of social media is that in their invention we have struck upon a way to turn the impersonal, explicit-knowledge oriented knowledge transfer systems of the past into something which more closely resembles the way in which we are instinctively driven to share knowledge. The cold divide of digital technology has begun to be mended using more technology.
What, then, is to come? I am no oracle, but were I to make a projection–sewn from whole cloth in a few moments of consideration though it may be–it would be that we will continue down the converging road we seem to be upon, toward a more total integration of human knowledge-sharing behavior with digital knowledge-sharing systems. I suspect that tacit knowledge will be no easier to relate in such a future, but perhaps it may reach a point where such transfer is merely as difficult to transfer remotely as it is in person.
Grace, T. P. L. (2009). Wikis as a knowledge management tool. Journal of Knowledge Management, 13(4), 64-74.
Levy, M. (2009). Web 2.0 implications on knowledge management. Journal of Knowledge Management, 13(1), 120-134.
Wang, W. T., & Lu, Y. C. (2010). Knowledge transfer in response to organizational crises: An exploratory study. Expert Systems with Applications, 37(5), 3934-3942.
Yuan, Y. C., Zhao, X., Liao, Q., & Chi, C. (2013). The use of different information and communication technologies to support knowledge sharing in organizations: From e-mail to micro-blogging. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 64(8), 1659-1670.