In my earlier post, Knowledge Management Made Easier, I reported on Tim Leberecht’s proposal that we use widespread blogging within organizations to make tacit knowledge explicit. I was very taken with the idea of providing everyone with an easy way to capture and share their learning, and even imagined, for a moment, what it would be like to have a vibrant organizational culture in which people felt comfortable with this level of transparency.
Since then, others have weighed in on this issue. Take, for example, Dave Snowden whose post, Oh When Will They Ever Learn, trenchantly argues that making blogging mandatory violates the very nature of social computing. For him, social computing is intended to make collaboration and sharing possible for those who wish to participate. Or, as he puts it:
Aside from the perpetuation of the myth of tacit-explicit knowledge conversion …, the idea of compulsion flies in the face of all theory and practice in social computing. Its a classic; find something which is working, then ruin it by compulsion.
In a similar vein, Patrick Lambe’s comment on my prior post directed me to the wisdom of Dr. David Vaine on the subject of Forced Corporate Blogging (a.k.a. “Flogging”). Dr. Vaine clearly does not believe that compulsory blogging is either useful or wise.
While I understand and sympathize with their objections, I’m mindful of another approach. For years, authors such as Julia Cameron have recommended that people who wish to increase their personal creativity engage in the practice of keeping a daily journal. While this isn’t mandatory (in that there isn’t any external enforcer), making a good faith attempt to meet the challenge actually does improve one’s writing and expands creativity. I might say the same for those of us who try to blog regularly. The more we exercise the blogging muscle, the better we get and the more rewarding it is.
Although mandatory blogging may seem like a contradiction in terms or an exercise in futility for proponents of a purely voluntary system, it could also provide an opportunity to participate for people who wouldn’t otherwise think of trying this. Given that businesses need access to the learning of all their employees (and not just those who choose to share), there might be merit in finding a middle path between the mandatory approach and the completely voluntary approach.
Is there a better way that achieves higher levels of participation reasonably quickly without doing violence to the nature of social computing? The answer to this question could transform your KM program and your organization.