Get Your Head Out of the Clouds!

Day 86 – Head in the Clouds
Originally uploaded by margolove

Greg Verdino’s challenging post Beyond Knowledge has generated some great discussion on the nature of knowledge and the impact of the Internet/Web 2.0 on how we all tap into this massive "crowdsourced brain". I have been fascinated by the concept of knowledge management for years and actually ran a KM group for IBM years ago — and what I learned then (and what Greg clearly identifies upfront) is that knowledge is not the domain of technology (yet) but of people.

You see, there are lots of really smart people out there in the world. They can be working in your business, they might be sitting in the cube next to you, or they could be on the other side of the planet. But how do you know what they know? How can they manifest this in a way that allows their expertise to shine out and reach the person who needs it? For this to happen you need a couple of things — you need:

  • A platform for communication
  • A method of organising the data
  • A way of connecting it all up

In the web 2.0 world, we have platforms coming out our ears — we have blogs, wikis, video sharing sites, podcasts etc. We also have tagging and bookmarking to categorise and share our interests. And we have search engines and rating systems etc to connect it all up. But all this lives in the cloud and is the domain of cloud computing.

It is using all these elements that you, dear reader, are able to find my often misguided marketing meanderings. It is what allows the thoughts and ideas of one individual to reach out beyond the circles of life limited by time and geography. But why does this breakthrough? As Greg points out, I think it has to do with seeing the value in a shift from knowledge to conversation (or as Greg says, "connection").

When I worked at IBM we held seminars and meetings. Lots of them. We showcased ideas and project work. We wrote about them on the intranet. We championed the individuals whose efforts and breakthroughs made innovation possible. And we talked. And the thing that worked most effectively was the lunchtime meetings … having one person tell the story of how they solved a problem. It was like a lightening rod … conversation erupted, ideas leaped across the room. It was great.

So we decided to go bigger. While the virtual meetings were well subscribed, there was a demand for face-to-face storytelling. Everyone loved the ideas but also wanted to see the face behind the innovation — and our first series of seminars filled lecture halls to overflowing.

We were building a forum for ideas. But there was a business purpose here … I was also looking at commercial viability. I needed to be able to see a future opportunity — a patent perhaps or the licensing of code. But I also needed to see something else — a personal champion. As Greg points out, with knowledge freely available it becomes a commodity. A great idea can string separate knowledge chunks together — but it takes a resilient person and a network of supporters to push through the barriers of innovation apathy to turn an idea into something tangible. It’s no longer a case of "what you know" nor of "who you know" but of:

"who knows you + knows what you know".

And this is where Web 2.0 comes in. It is now far easier to create and enable these conversations via technology (in fact, this post is part of a conversation that is also occuring points out) or the sheer human pull of a good storyteller to make knowledge valuable.

Greg Verdino also promises another couple of posts extending this topic. I am looking forward to more conversation!

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