For a little while now I have been subconsciously irked by something, but only today did I realize why. The trigger for this mild epiphany was a one year old blog post. I will link you to it as soon as I explain my thoughts on the matter.
First of all, we all have our own biases. Here is mine. I came to KM from an IT/process background in 2000. I came to SM from a KM background in 2004.
The irking I mentioned is being caused by the fact that I continue to practice both KM and SM and yet they don’t seem to be getting along. KM has not embraced SM nor vice versa, despite their similar ideals: to support the sharing of information.
Many people have heard me espouse my theory that KM will never become more than an academic foundation because as each facet of KM gains a foothold, it breaks off into its own discipline. However, I don’t believe that is what is happening with SM. On the contrary, SM from its birth was very opposite to KM in so many ways.
- where KM seeks to provide structure/control, SM prefers chaos
- where KM tends towards large top-down systems, SM tends to be grass-roots
- where KM is often practiced by older professionals, SM has captured the imagination of a younger crowd
- where KM seeks to define the goal and then select appropriate tools, SM provides the tools and hopes that a common goal will emerge, but at the least everyone will individually find value
The triggering blog post I mentioned above is called Social Media vs. Knowledge Management: A Generational War by Venkatesh Rao. Personally, I think he puts too much emphasis on age, but it is at the very least thought-provoking.
One of the parts I like best is where he talks about Generation X being in-between the Boomers who prefer KM and the Millenials who prefer SM. By the very fact that Venkatesh wrote the post the way he did, it is clear he likes to seek out patterns and meaning which is more of a KM type trait.
This tension between KM control and SM freedom is typified by the discussion of taxonomy vs. tagging. Only now, as I write this blog post, do I realize that my fervent advocacy of tagging over taxonomy beginning in 2005 was a sign of my shifting allegiance from KM to SM. I have had many debates with KMers about taxonomy and I am perceiving in new light why we were not seeing eye to eye.
If there is to be a war (as Venkatesh terms it) between KM and SM, then Enterprise2.0 is going to be the battle ground. In order to have successful E2.0 initiatives, I believe that we are going to need to borrow from both camps. There may be compromises that make neither happy. Keep your eye out for these clashes as your organization rolls out any web2.0 tools/programs company-wide.
Addition: Since writing this post, I found an excellent series of slideshare posts that discuss the relationship between KM and SM
Side Note: I am currently working on building a Twitter driven (SM) community for knowledge management professionals (KM) called KMers.org and launching end of 2009. It will be very interesting to see what lessons we learn.