How to Gain Knowledge from the Online Community

June 29, 2010
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As employees today have increasingly free reign to connect and share data online, the amount of untapped organizational knowledge grows in proportion.  The very nature of online communities allow us to create personas that enable us to say whatever we want, whenever we want, and to whomever we chose.  As our virtual freedom increases, it becomes more and more difficult to identify and make use of concrete, usable information that can help the business in a tangible, measurable way. 

As employees today have increasingly free reign to connect and share data online, the amount of untapped organizational knowledge grows in proportion.  The very nature of online communities allow us to create personas that enable us to say whatever we want, whenever we want, and to whomever we chose.  As our virtual freedom increases, it becomes more and more difficult to identify and make use of concrete, usable information that can help the business in a tangible, measurable way. 

According to Oliver Marks, Enterprise2.0 strategist and consultant, business collaboration should be about “facilitating communication, streamlining processes and providing valuable contextual information to coworkers, against which business value can be measured as increased efficiency and awareness.”

To achieve this end, it is necessary for community managers to create an environment that promotes the exchange of information with a defined and measurable objective in mind.  Much like offline collaboration, the members of the online community must be working towards a common goal and have a framework in place to start from if we are ever to make sense of the information being contributed.  There must also be mutual benefit for both the community and it’s members to promote contribution.

Case in point– The MIKE2.0 project contains a framework of 5 phases and an overall task list for industry collaboration.   Members of the community have open source access to an ever-growing set of Solutions and Assets that can assist them with enterprise projects, while providing opportunity to enhance them for use by other community members.  Aside from the recognition of contributing to a knowledge center accessed by 2,500 members worldwide, contributing members can freely make use of community and wiki information and utilize the platform in real world scenarios

Much different than your typical Zing, LinkedIn group or Q&A forum, where little to no strategy has been devised to guide and make sense of the flow of information.   If we are ever to gain knowledge from the online community and collaboration platform, we need to concentrate not only on driving traffic and dialogue, but setting goals and offering a blueprint for reaching them.