“Connecting Knowledge.” Sounds like a book title to me.

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This word cloud shows what we talked about the most in 2010. Make your own word cloud at wordle.net

Jonathan Feinberg created Wordle, the tool I used to generate the word cloud above. In a word cloud, the larger the font, the more frequently a word was used on a blog.

While I’m not surprised to see that the top words we used on the Knowledge Architecture blog last year were connect and knowledge, it is serendipitous, for I’ve been developing the title for our forthcoming book on knowledge sharing in the AEC industry, and just this weekend, wrote “CONNECTING KNOWLEDGE” in all caps on the whiteboard in my office. I think it’s a keeper.

A couple of months ago, Ed Friedrichs wrote a guest post for the KA Connect blog about connecting experts. In his post, he describes building Gensler’s first intranet, and in that process, having the following epiphany:

In the shower one morning, I had an “aha” moment – if I have a true passion about a subject, something that fascinates me so much that I continue to learn about it without being directed to or financially rewarded for it, I am likely to know who the world-class experts on the subject are. So, all I need to do, is get connected to those experts quickly.

Ed goes on to conclude that:

…the solution to knowledge management is not technological, it’s cultural. True professionalism today requires building a closely connected network of world class, just-in-time expert knowledge, accessible to everyone in your enterprise.

One of the major insights which I have acquired from Ed over the last year is that yes, codifying knowledge gained from projects into checklists and procedures is important, but the most valuable function that knowledge management technology can provide is to connect the knowledge-seeker with an expert who worked on a related problem. If that expert doesn’t know the answer, because of their interest in that problem, he or she is likely to know someone that does. Ed calls this phenomenon “two degrees of separation,” and he’ll be speaking about it this April in San Francisco at KA Connect 2011.

I believe that the next frontier for social networking is to improve knowledge sharing inside the organization, fulfilling Ed’s vision of a “connected network of world class, just-in-time expert knowledge, accessible to everyone in your enterprise.” A social intranet if you will.

The interesting side note in history, is that the World Wide Web was originally designed for learning. In his must-read book, “Where Good Ideas Come From,” Steven Johnson tells the story of Tim Berners-Lee, a researcher at the Swiss particle lab CERN. Berners-Lee found himself “overwhelmed by the flow of information and personal churn in the organization. As a side project, he began tinkering with an application that would allow him to keep track of all of that data.”  That application evolved over ten years to become today’s World Wide Web.

We may associate the Internet with online shopping, videos clips, and gaming today, but according to the CERN website, Tim Berners-Lee conceived and developed the World Wide Web to “meet the demand for automatic information sharing between scientists working in different universities and institutes all over the world.” Almost twenty years later, the Internet works as designed.

The exciting opportunity, for those of us interested in knowledge management and organizational learning, will be to adapt the innovations made in the broader social networking context to connect their teams with the knowledge they seek. In other words, we will build the (social) intranets we’ve always wanted.

Thanks to Allison (Brooks) Scott of Winter Street Architects for posting their word cloud earlier today.

Posted: January 25th, 2011 | Filed under: General | 2 Comments »

2 Comments on ““Connecting Knowledge.” Sounds like a book title to me.”

  1. 1 Allison (Brooks) Scott said at 8:25 am on January 26th, 2011:

    This is a great post Chris! It’s amazing how the internet has evolved to inform, inspire and innovate everything we do and know. I think “connecting knowledge” says it all!

  2. 2 Tweets that mention “Connecting Knowledge.” Sounds like a book title to me. -- Topsy.com said at 9:13 am on January 26th, 2011:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by WSArchitects, Christopher Parsons. Christopher Parsons said: Can we adapt innovations of the broader social networking context to connect our teams with the knowledge they seek? http://bit.ly/gxBxdc [...]