Whither Knowledge Sharing?Posted: December 22, 2008 | |
There was a news article recently carried in most Indian newspapers … front page news … about possible industrial espionage. Nothing concrete, mind you, but there are ample apprehensions for this … and this brings up a few questions. Actually, more than a few.
One of the stories can be read here … Indian infotech sector is main focus of Chinese spying … Interesting reading. What i am writing about here, though, is not the instance of possible spying, but rather the implications this kind of incident can have on the psyche of people and organizations, and the possible impact on activities like knowledge sharing. After all, its all about knowledge, isnt it?
Lets take this at two levels … restricting access to specific content to specific people, and, more importantly, to the realm of social computing.
Lets take an example … if there are employees in a firm who are spying on the content in the firm, and passing it on to competitors, then the question this brings up is, to what extent is the whole idea of knowledge sharing valid? Maybe i am being a bit too cynical here, but look at it from the perspective of the company whose computers have been hacked into, and who lost a large deal. If there were employees of theirs who were responsible for leaking information, then the question is, would they like to have content shared across the larger canvas of the organization, or would not the temptation to restrict content to a need-to-know basis? And if the organization moves to that kind of scenario, then the challenge this brings up is how this can be integrated with the larger knowledge-sharing, dont-reinvent-the-wheel philosophy?
At the other level, an organization which enables its employees to blog about the work they are doing, and their experiences, there is always a possibility of someone, somewhere inadvertantly writing something which is sensitive in nature, and could lead to some issues. Would the organization want to keep looking over its shoulder?
Question is, how can we address these concerns? One important thing here is that there must be a clear distinction between what can be shared on a public platform, and what cannot be. There must be very clear definitions of these, which must define very clearly what content must be made available on a need-to-know basis, and what can be readily shared. On the other hand, there must be clear guidelines about information (i am not talking experiences, lessons learnt, or knowledge in the larger sense of the term …) which should be kept away from social computing platforms, and information which can be shared on these platforms. Agreed, most organizations have corporate blogging policies in place, for example, but more often than not these tend to be too vague, with not even any examples about what is acceptable, and what is not.
There could be those who argue against the adoption of social computing given these kinds of things can happen, but this would, i think, be too drastic a thought process, because this negates the benefits that an organization can find from deploying social computing platforms. But, the fact remains that a tool … any tool … is as good as the user who is using it.