Saturday, 2 June 2012

Why would I share?

Enterprise 2.0 is  all about knowledge sharing.   The advantage of knowledge sharing for the enterprise is obvious, but what about the individuals?  What is in it for them?  Why would I share?

We are all taught from a young age the importance of sharing.   As we grow we are also taught there needs to be a balance.  After all you do not want to be taken advantage of.  Only share with people that are your friends, people that are nice to you, but don't give away everything.   In school it can be seen in the lunch room.  Sure it's nice to share a few chips from your lunch,  but you also need to make sure you don't go hungry.  As we get older, it moves to money.  Most of us are willing to share money with family, less money as the friendships grow less intimate,  but what happens when a stranger asks you to spare some change?

For many of us knowledge, in general, is a large part of our identify.  Our knowledge is what makes us unique, separates us from the pack.  In the enterprise our knowledge is our currency.  Knowledge gives an individual a competitive advantage over their peers.  There is a cost, in time and effort, to the individual in acquiring knowledge.  Their return on investment is the competitive advantage and recognition that the knowledge could bring.  Why give that up for free?  How do we still give people the return on the investment made on gaining knowledge while still encouraging them to share?

As you can see, which I'm sure is not a big surprise to anyone, there are some significant hurdles to overcome with user adoption.  The value in Enterprise 2.0 is only visible when users actually use the system.  In other words if no one is sharing there is no system.  So to drive adoption and see value from your investment in enterprise 2.0, you need to be able to answer the question: Why would I share?

If you’re a glass half full kind of person you will look at the above piece and point out that all I've shown is that people do indeed want to share.  They just need the correct environment to do it in.  How do we provide that?

It looks like your site must achieve two main goals:
  1. Provide a Return on Investment to the individual for their knowledge
  2. Establish and foster communities that provide the close relationships that truly drive sharing

If you step back and take a look at some of the more successful web 2.0 sites you'll notice these two items are very prominent.  One example is a site  like Stack Overflow that allows people to ask and answer questions on a variety of technical topics.  The site is leveraging existing communities that are already out there for these technologies, although does provide a platform for these isolated geographical communities to merge into a larger online one.  The site also provides users an ROI on their knowledge  by providing user recognition (badges).   It allows users to vote on answers provided by different people.  The more votes you get the more points you get, the more points the higher your ranking, the higher your ranking the more people will recognize you as a subject matter expert.  A different type of example is a site like LinkedIn.  LinkedIn allows you to build your own community by connecting to people that you know.  It also provides groups to allow people to ask and answer questions.  The difference here is on the ROI the system provides for knowledge sharing.  The ROI here is the ability to show your knowledge to potential employers as well as industry peers, to show yourself as a subject matter expert and give yourself a competitive advantage while also helping your community.

Why would I share?  Seems the answer is simple: To either help my community or to help myself, ideally both.  Does your Enterprise 2.0 site provide that?

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