Monday, 16 December 2019

Why it's important to limit the number of communication channels for knowledge

The purpose of a Knowledge Management framework within an organisation is to give people timely access to the knowledge they need, to make effective decisions and take effective action. 


 Knowledge must flow from the supplier to the user, through Push (publishing, telling) or through Pull (searching, asking).  To flow, it needs a channel.

This is where the Internet, and specifically social media on the Internet, is such a bad model for organisations, as online there can be so many channels, without causing too much of a problem.

How many social media channels can you name? The conversation prism lists over 200.

How many social media channels do you follow regularly? I follow about 5 or 6, you may follow more.  That means I am tapped in to a small percentage of the channels, which is not a big problem on the world wide web as there are so many people out there,  I am bound to find something of interest, or even get my questions answered. There are a lot of people that share the same channels, and I can access a lot of knowledge.  There are other conversations happening on the other channels, but I don't feel I need to follow them as I get by with the channels I use. To follow them all would be impossible.

However inside the small world of an organisation, you need to maximise the likelihood that the knowledge supplier and knowledge user are on the same channel. You cannot afford knowledge to go missing because user and supplier are using different media. You cannot afford someone to ask a question on one channel, while the person who can answer it is on a different channel. This way lies lost knowledge. You need to limit, or ideally to minimise, the number of communication channels.

Schlumberger's approach to this issue is very clear - for every knowledge management purpose within their organisation, there should be one channel, and only one channel.

  • Connecting people with technical information? One channel
  • Finding people with expertise? One channel
  • Asking a question of a Community of Practice? One channel
  • Publishing video? One channel
and so on.

When there is only one channel for communicating knowledge, you can be assured that everyone is om the same channel, and that knowledge will not be lost.

Avoid the temptation to add multiple channels which fulfil the same purpose; this introduces confusion and duplication, and increases the chance that critical knowledge will get lost somewhere between the supplier and the user. If a vendor comes to you offering a new communication channel, ask whether it duplicates something you already have. If it does, then be ready to shut down your existing channel, or to say No to the vendor. 

Limit, or minimise, your communication channels for knowledge, to minimise the risk and cost of lost knowledge. 




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