Gordon Vala-Webb’s (Nat’l Director, KM, PriceWaterhouseCoopers Canada) session on Knowledge Sharing Using Social media Tools in the Enterprise has already given me some pause for thought…..he’s talking about the difference between networking and collaborating in a team/work environment.  Hm…..it makes perfect sense, as Gordon would, I just hadn’t thought about it.  When ppl network, they do so voluntarily, and the actual outcome of their networking is unknown.  But when they collaborate in a work environment, they aren’t doing so as volunteers and the output is the end goal.  Those are very different starting points for people, and drive their behaviours. There’s a difference between team work and net work.

So what? Well, the issues today that clients want help with require a very broad perspective & broad network; yet ppl won’t net work at work & express their opinions if they don’t feel safe to do so. I picture ppl on a highwire with a “net” to save them if they fall off.  Is that a metaphor for net working on the wire, or wireless, as the case may be?

“Ambient Awareness” Gordon says, is really the need to have some sense of what else is out there in order to connect when needed. That’s net working. Email is still the #1 social collaborative tool in all organizations — I’d say beyond organizations too, but I may be wrong.  Team collaboration spaces have only a 14% adoption rate — and that’s for all age groups.  why? these spaces are obviously not how ppl want to work together & connect. Do you fight email? If email is “where knowledge goes to die” then how is it a collaboration tool? Because everyone uses it……..

The alternative is to get a tool that does “everything”; what would that be? He used a wonderful metaphor of a swiss army knife – that does many things, just nothing really well. Social media is just the same. Social or shared messaging or micro blogging within the organization helps build ambient awareness  – commenting back & forth on each others comments – but it doesn’t really do anything very well. Social media within the enterprise may work the same as it does outside the firm, but the consequences are very different; how it differs depends very much on leadership & the culture they want to create.

Next steps? First, figure out where your organization is — who, in your organization is interested in this capability & where you are in terms of a relationship with them.  Next, you need to map out who you need to connect with — you can’t do this alone, & you’ll need friends in legal, technology, etc.  Finally, you need to have some sort of strategy for moving this forward. Just as in chess, you need a strategy & you need to adapt that strategy depending on what happens.  Move & adapt, move & adapt. Strategy isn’t easy — & is about making decisions in the face of uncertainty.  Social media is uncertain for organizations – & although it may still be at the swiss army knife stage, not doing anythings really well, it is in it’s early stages, and organizations need to start to deal with it.

Microblogging tools he mentioned are: www,present.ly, www.yapper.com and www.status.net