How can Conspectus build a catalog and ultimately leverage the collective knowledge of every employee and every client?
I am reading Enterprise 2.0 by Andrew McAfee. In his book, McAfee discusses weak links as a means to extend personal and business networks. Weak links are essentially the connections to acquaintances, not to close friends. These weak links tend to bind groups of otherwise unrelated people. These connections provide a means to interact that would never be possible without weak links.
These interactions allow individuals to take advantage of skill and knowledge sets of others that might otherwise be inaccessible. I would like to share some recent personal examples that exemplify McAfee's point and highlight the importance of Enterprise 2.0. Realize none of the results I will discuss were instant. They all took time to develop. But they did develop and extended networks even more.
As president of the Philadelphia Chapter CSI, I have been trying to connect the chapter members with the local faculty and student community at Drexel University. I know and have worked with several professors at Drexel (fairly strong links). However the connection was established not through these friends, but rather as the result of a conversation on Twitter. A second degree follower (a follower of one of my followers) joined a discussion. A brief exchange allowed me to discover he was a Drexel student by his Twitter profile.
Eventually this initial connection led to the student joining and participating in the Philadelphia Chapter CSI. But the rest of the story is even more important. The weak links from this one relationship encouraged CSI participation by other Drexel students. One, initially unknown to me at the time, works at one of my client firms.
From the discussion above you see I am involved in CSI and have been for a long time. This next example is a very roundabout weak link connection so bear with me as I explain. An architect in NYC called a friend in Canada (why Canada I have no idea) to ask for a recommended specifier to help with a project. The Canadian friend did not know any US specifiers, but did know his own NYC office staff. One of the staff, because of his own involvement in CSI, knew of me and made a recommendation.
But the story does not stop there. The first NYC architect had a Korean staff member that knew a Korean architectural project manager that was also looking for a specifier. So with a single inquiry, a single CSI connection resulted in not one, but two recommendations and two new commissions with two new clients and the potential for more.
This week I received two separate email messages one from a client and one from an acquaintance through the CSI Specifying Practice Group. As a company policy, Conspectus invites questions and our staff tries to answer them whether for one of our projects or not. Both contacts were asking about the performance of the same product. We are researching our answer and will respond soon.
Meanwhile, I received a telephone call, today, from the product representative. He had just given presentations in Charlottesville, VA and in Birmingham, AL. During the discussion that followed the presentation, one individual attending each session suggested the product representative call on me. Now realize, the product representative is based in Virginia, I am in southern New Jersey, and the presentations were not close by. The connection would never have been made except for the weak links we all share.
So what does all this have to do with collective knowledge? Individually, none of these incidents are remarkable in themselves. None of them relies on some vast repository of information to make connections and share information. But what if they did? What if individuals could tap the knowledge of close friends, colleagues, and all the weak link acquaintances? What if those weak links filled a gap, providing knowledge we might not otherwise have?
Imagine, just imagine what we could do...collectively.
This is our current quest, finding and implementing a strategy and building a collaborative attitude to ensure Conspectus's collective knowledge survives every employee.
Today's tools are beginning to allow us to catalog and leverage our collective knowledge. This blog is only one example. I write, you comment, and everyone can search and find the discussion - taking advantage of knowledge otherwise not available. Consider the value other tools bring, social media, Wikipedia, intranets, and more.
I am convinced the tools are not as important as the participation. So join the discussions. Contribute. Collaborate! Help others learn what you know. Build your weak links, your strong links, and your influence on the world.
Connect with our specifiers to build your links and gain an additional knowledge base.