In some law firm knowledge management circles it is fashionable to disdain theory in favor practical realities. To be honest, there was a time in my career when I chose to ignore theory and focused instead on learning the lessons provided by the school of hard knocks. The problem was that while those lessons were abundant, they often were rather painful. Further, while they made sense in the context of my experience, that experience was by necessity limited and I couldn’t always safely extrapolate from that specific experience to develop a solid theory of more general application.
Once I acknowledged these shortcomings, I had to find a better way. And that way led me back … to theory. As I began reading, I discovered that I was not the first to experience certain KM challenges and I learned that some of the “clever” solutions I was contemplating had been tried and discarded by smarter minds and braver souls than mine. That’s when it dawned on me that, at its best, the KM literature could save me from a world of hurt by allowing me to learn from the experiences of others.
That made me a convert. Yet even still, I wasn’t entirely sure how far I could safely take KM theory and apply it to the real world.
In the last few months, I’ve been part of a group testing some KM theory and discovering once again that there is a lot KM can teach the real world. In particular, I’ve been testing what I’ve read in the KM literature about social capital and behavior in social networks. Together with my stellar partners Alessandra Lariu, Claudia Batten, John Weiss and Matt Null, I’ve taken those theories out for a trial run in the world of mobile apps. On December 31, a company we co-founded released a mobile app called Broadli. This app helps users sort their cluttered collection of contacts to uncover their trusted network. Then the app helps users activate their trusted network to move forward the projects that matter most to them. Along the way, participants create networks of generosity in which they “pay it forward” by providing a helping hand to people within their extended network.
Thanks to a fabulous feature article in Fast Company and some energetic social media activity, Broadli has become an idea that has captured the imagination of thousands of users. And we hope that many thousands more will see the light.
So if you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been blogging lately, now you know. If you have an iPhone 5 and would like to be part of these networks of generosity, please download the app and start using it. To be sure you get the full experience, invite members of your trusted network to join in as well. We welcome your participation and your comments.