KM and Ad Hoc Communities

National Public Radio is experimenting with new ways of using social media tools to involve their audience in the creation of live radio shows. One of the most recent examples is their effort to form ad hoc communities, as demonstrated by the new wikis related to the Brian Lehrer Show’s 30 Issues in 30 Days series. This is how these wikis are described:

Each Friday throughout the series, we’re doing a “30 Issues Wiki.” For these six segments, we’ve created an easily edited page where you can collaborate with others to help produce the segment. On this page you’ll be able to suggest angles; do research; write copy and questions; suggest guests; and suggest audio to be included in the on-air segment. In other words, you’ll do everything a normal Brian Lehrer Show producer does every day.

Through social media, listeners of this popular talk radio show were invited to collaborate in the creation of specific broadcasts. For example, a group of listeners spontaneously came together in an ad hoc community to consider how best to frame the issues for a broadcast entitled “Drill Baby Drill?: Oil vs Alternative Energy.” In the days leading to the broadcast, they edited a wiki page that reflected their concerns and points of view. Then the collaborative work of this group was transformed into a radio show that was broadcast on October 10 and is available for you to hear now. These folks may never meet and may never collaborate again. But for a brief moment in time, they came together to create something useful.

An ad hoc community can also be triggered by breaking news, such as catastrophes. This is another instance in which the news media can use its natural strengths to initiate greater participation by its audience, thereby turning that audience into a group of citizen journalists. In the post The Power of Portals: Ad-Hoc Communities we learn,

Ad hoc communities primarily emerge for the purpose of information dissemination; thus, news portals are the perfect environment to foster such communities.
Ad hoc networks need to be low involvement and facilitate information exchange. As they are short lived and focus on time sensitive events, ad hoc communities could be a great way to extend the reach and increase the value of content.

Now let’s take the concept of ad hoc community and translate it into the environment of law firm knowledge management. During the economic upheavals of the last few weeks, how has your law firm’s KM group or IT department responded? The press has reported that lawyers in various firms have formed ad hoc communities to act as economic crisis response teams. Have the KM departments in those firms provided adequate tools to support those response teams? Are there RSS feeds to supply the latest news and commentary? Are there wiki pages to collect each team’s analysis and learning? Are there blogs to record their Q&A and market updates? Or are these teams struggling to get by on e-mail and static HTML pages on their firm intranets?

The beauty of social media tools is that they are wonderfully flexible and easy to use. Once the platform is in place, the users can dive right in to create and organize the content in a manner that is useful and appropriate to their needs without much (if any) administrative support. For knowledge managers looking for an opportunity to demonstrate the power and utility of social media tools, you may not need to look any further than the current economic crisis.

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