Social Media, Or KM?

There is much debate about the friction between Knowledge Management, and Social Networking. Venkatesh Rao has written an interesting piece about Social Media vs. Knowledge Management … interesting because he treats these two as being the tools of two different generations. And then there is a post by Jeff Kelly about KM vs. Social Media (ya, the terms are inter-changed) … and together they make for interesting reading.

For one, i dont quite agree with Venkatesh when he says there is a war between two opposing ideologies. First of all, i dont believe they are opposing ideologies. Neither Knowledge Management, nor Social Media (at least within the organizational context) are ends to themselves … these are means to other ends … whatever those be (and i am not trying to define them here, because most organizations have their goals defined for themselves, and there is no single goal that they envisage for either of these two, at least not the way they articulate it, though basically, they are all similar). Once we see these as means, they become tools which are to be used for delivering something (in this example, greater effectiveness of knowledge work). And once we look at it this way, the idea of war doesnt seem to stand. Lets look at it this way … each generation has their own way of doing things … viewpoints change … and there is ample interest in Social Media among members of a few generations, though this interest is varied in terms of magnitude, or usage.

And then, Jeff goes into something which i basically disagree with … treating these different tools as generational. While they may be (and no, i am not saying that they are), its not serving any purpose to classify them as such. Why? Look at it this way … for a large part of “millenials” they dont even exist. I am talking here, about one-third of humanity … India and China … both countries with a large proportion of young people, who are not focussed on social media, though social media can change their lives in a large way, maybe not even thought about.

Having said this, i quite agree with Andrew McAfee when he asks the question of technologies being at war with each other. As i have written earlier, while people are at the focus of KM efforts, we should be careful not to over-compensate for the emphasis on technology, and ignore it completely.


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