Blog home

How Collaborative Knowledge Sharing is Superior to Exchanging Emails

July 23, 2010, Ben Willis -

One of modern Social software’s primary appeals is the ability it provides to tap into the collective intelligence within your organization through Social knowledge sharing — that is, knowledge sharing that is peer-to-peer or “collaborative”.

Not surprisingly, a few people I have spoken with have questioned whether the benefits really extend beyond what they get by sharing emails. From a risk perspective, collaborative knowledge sharing and exchanging emails are quite similar; in a world where any email can be forwarded to anyone, content is only as secure as the people with whom it is shared.  A good Social enterprise solution allows users to share knowledge with targeted audiences just as one can limit the audience for an email.  But from a benefits point of view, collaborative knowledge sharing is vastly superior to simply exchanging emails.  In short, emails are about information exchange, while collaborative sharing is about knowledge creation.

Imagine a typical scenario where a team is sending emails to collaborate on about an emerging Technology it is developing. The email gets sent to a selected audience, and read by some subset of that audience. After that, the email is deleted or archived locally. In either case, it’s essentially lost to others in the organization who might need that same information. The question seeking insight into your key Technology development efforts may well be asked and answered over and over again. That’s because, in the words of Don Tapscott who wrote Wikinomics, How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, problem resolution via email “leaves no organizational memory of the event, with the risk that only the people involved in creating the solution walk away with any new insights…solutions will be reinvented every time the problem reoccurs.” That leads to an enormous waste of time and money within your organization.

Collaborative Knowledge Sharing Benefits:

- Knowledge posts in a wiki, on a discussion board, or in a knowledgebase can be deliberately shared according to whatever guidelines you or the author establish. You decide when and how to make the information available and who will have access to it. The fact that someone has creating a posting is, in itself, an indicator of the value of the knowledge being shared. Contrast this to most emails, which are typically not meant to be shared or re-read — and are often viewed as having limited value.

- Even the most organized individual can have a hard time finding critical information in an email. Messages are not easy to search, and a lot of us may find it difficult to create BlogArticleFolders to help organize information that comes to our in-box.

- Finally, it’s impossible to obtain from emails some of the key benefits of collective intelligence: how the group rating and group editing process can both identify and improve upon the best available content. Unlike emails, collaborative knowledge posts can generally be rated and/or edited by others within a group or community. Using these ratings, people can more easily identify specific postings that will be most helpful to them while group revisions serve to improve upon the content.

Collaborative knowledge sharing posts are the fundamental building blocks of an enterprise’s collective intelligence and one of the key enablers of a true Learning organization.  Emails are messages that vanish into thin air almost as soon as they are sent.