KM Engagement, Exploration and Why It Leads To Better Knowledge Flow
We all enjoy talking and listening to people who agree with us. We have our favorite talk radio hosts and TV pundits. Listening to the “other guys” just annoys us. That search for confirmation may keep us comfortable, but it does nothing to keep us creative or agile in the face of change.
You would think that being part of a large digital social network could combat this insularity, but evidently not. Even social networks can backfire and give you the wrong idea about what’s important or trending. I asked Alex Pentland, author of Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread—The Lessons from a New Science and keynoter at our upcoming KM conference, how we can use social networks effectively inside our organizations and avoid falling victim to “breathing our own exhaust.”
Carla: Could you talk about social networks, eToro, and the wisdom of crowds?
Alex: It’s interesting, because eToro is like Twitter except people are buying and selling gold, stocks, and Euros. This means you can see the efficacy of their ideas and strategies—if someone is making good decisions, then they’re making money; if they’re making poor decisions, then they’re losing money. This leads to the question: What sort of social networking really leads people to better decisions?
We clearly find that people who try to go it alone and ignore social don’t do very well. People who spend all their time listening to others and being super social don’t do very well either. Hyper-social people don’t do well because, as they’re engaging in this orgy of social interchange, they’re just moving from fad to fad to fad and not finding many new ideas.
People who do really well on eToro have a diverse set of things they pay attention to. It’s not so much the quantity of social interaction as it is making sure that your social lens cuts across silos, so that you can hear the different voices. People who do that in eToro make 30 to 40 percent more money than the people who do it alone or the people who are super social. I think that’s a general lesson about using social media. It’s easy to overdo it and have the impression that “everybody” believes X. Maybe not; maybe it’s just everyone following each other.
Carla: You’ll be keynoting APQC’s 20th Knowledge Management Conference on May 1, 2015. Could you give us a preview of what you’ll talk about?
Alex: I’m going to focus on engagement and exploration, and how that leads to better idea flow. I’ll also speak about what is so distinct about new digital media, and the dangers we need to look out for. One of these dangers is the importance of a diversity of ideas, which I see as key to making better decisions. I will also talk more about the New Deal on Data and the importance of respecting employees and consumers.
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