Social Media and Knowledge Jam: A Match Made in Heaven

Blog Topic: 
Knowledge Jam

Frequently, a social media initiative lags in participation and value because content is not core to the business, content remains superficial or transactional, or potentially valuable nuggets are lost in a string of Yammerings, posts or Tweets. All too often the real subject matter experts may simply stay away. To overcome these hurdles and jumpstart (or reinvigorate) social media initiatives, organizations are increasingly turning to the conversation. By Katrina Pugh April 8, 2011.

Knowledge Jam, a facilitated, collaborative knowledge transfer method, uses real-time conversation to help organizations identify, surface, and spread critical ideas. Knowledge Jam helps smooth executive successions, accelerate restructurings, inform investment decisions, enlighten requirements gathering, and make social media a more productive part of these processes.

At the outset of the Knowledge Jam, the organization gets a sponsor, such as an IT executive, to approve and advocate for specific Knowledge Jam subjects. Next, facilitators – who guide the organization through the Knowledge Jam cycle – draw in appropriate subject matter experts and teams who have solved problems or faced adversity, and connect them with knowledge “brokers.”  (Brokers are representatives from teams who need to translate veterans’ insights into their new process redesigns, product strategies, training content, or job descriptions.)  Next, an expanded set of participants engage in a 90-minute Discover/Capture event – a real-time conversation – to collectively draw out and make sense of a sometimes incoherent set of ideas and their context. The facilitator’s process, detailed in the book, includes managing the conversation to include openness and respect, diversity of perspectives, and dialogue practices.  As a result,  brokers “translate” new insights into action without obstacles like embarrassment, defensiveness, or fear.  

Knowledge Jam’s disciplines of facilitation, conversation and translation extend directly into social media initiatives. The facilitation discipline results in higher-impact topics, as well as more intentional, respectful discussion as value-orientated knowledge-sharing is the norm. The conversation discipline generates more useful know-how through more engaged inquiry and diverse perspectives. And the translation discipline helps motivate participants to apply knowledge forward, and to capitalize on the relationships begun in the Knowledge Jam to further refine ideas and put them to use.

When managers bring the Knowledge Jam disciplines into their social media initiatives they increase focus, connection and flow. I experienced this first hand while I was facilitating Knowledge Jams at Intel. We set up a SharePoint discussion forum to capture Intel consultants’ experiences with an application.  The interaction was more idea-probing, more diverse and the content more reusable than other discussions using the exact SharePoint discussion tool.  We were able to directly link these benefits to the quality of rapport we had built up over a series of Knowledge Jams, and to the fact the right participants were in there, voluntarily exchanging threads,and itching to apply the ideas.

Social media and Knowledge Jam have a delightfully symbiotic relationship. Blogs, microblogs, shared bookmarks, and other social media features can help employees to identify subjects.  These tools can also be used to flesh out the Knowledge Jam agendas (topics). Then, after a real-time conversation (e.g., using desktop conferencing), social media can help brokers to vet or expand the captured conversation outcomes. Finally, social media can give those outcomes more exposure in the competitive market for ideas. In the end, organizations more effectively learn decide, compete and adapt.

A Potential “Lift” Comes from Seeding Social Media with Knowledge Jam

A Potential Lift Comes from Seeding Social Media with Knowledge Jam

Traditional Introduction of Social Media

versus Social Media “Seeded by knowledge Jam”

SM: Get an enlightened sponsor who cares about knowledge transfer

SMKJ: Get an enlightened sponsor who cares about specific topics and knowledge-transfer.

SM: Build or purchase a tool.

SMKJ: Select subjects with sponsor, and secure initial broker and originator commitment.

SM: Train people on using the tool (or just communicate that it is there and suggest how it can be used).

SMKJ: Engage committed brokers.

SM: Cultivate champions to play an active discussion role.

SMKJ: From subjects, collectively plan topics. Ensure brokers are prepared to participate and draw out know-how for those topics.

SM: Post guidelines.

SMKJ: Facilitate a real-time Discover/Capture event to seed content and culture. (Ground rules are included.)

SM: Count hits, threads, or content volume

SMKJ: Seekers reuse knowledge either from within the social media tool or within other formats, such as processes, product requirements, projects, training.

Measure knowledge reuse outcomes and trace to Knowledge Jam components (well-engaged originators, content-rich Discover/Capture event, intentional translation, adept facilitation.)

From Sharing HiddenKnow-How, by Katrina Pugh, Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2011.

Katrina Pugh is president of AlignConsulting, a firm that helps organizations plan business and technology change by channeling insight into action. For more information about “Sharing Hidden Know-How,” visit the Amazonor Jossey-Bass website. You can also connect with Katrina Pugh on Twitterand LinkedIn

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