The APQC Blog

Louis Richardson of IBM on Making Social Smart

Virtually every mature KM program has or wants a social collaboration aspect, via SharePoint, Yammer, a wiki, or any one of the myriad open source or inexpensive proprietary and public social networking sites. Employees want to connect as easily at the office as they do in their personal life for a quick exchange, to follow people they like, and to create a personal brand.

Great, right? But can KM harness social to work smarter? To solve a problem by connecting people who might not otherwise find each other? To enable a better flow of ideas and work? 

I recently spoke with Louis Richardson as part of the Big Thinkers, Big Ideas interview series. A self-styled IBM storyteller and enthusiast, Louis has been active in the collaboration space for 30 years and knows his stuff.

Not surprisingly, he thinks social (smarter) work is transformational.

LOUIS: It’s not about incremental improvements; it’s about adjusting the culture of the way people work. I can’t stress this enough—it’s not so much about technology; it’s about changing people’s behavior and the culture.

He says social changes the culture and how knowledge flows by turning content management on its head:

LOUIS: We need to shift from the idea of looking at content in the container model, that is “Where do we put the content, how do we store it, and how do we manage it?” We need to begin approaching the issue from a people-centric viewpoint. We need to ask, “Who are the individuals who created the content, what did they create, and how did they work together?”

I personally think expertise location using machine learning algorithms will morph from static profiles to a dynamic dashboard of behaviors and interests.  I asked Louis about this. His answer was interesting.

LOUIS: In the past, expertise has, in many ways, been a result of self-proclamation. The experts have fancy titles, credentials, and recognition. Within the body of our system, there are analytics that are running. It’s watching the way people work and understanding the way people behave, with an idea we have called a “personal social dashboard.” This is a dashboard that reflects our business within IBM.

We designed it so that only you can see your own dashboard. It shows your activity level (that is, whether you are an active contributor and an active consumer). It also tells you who is eminent within the company.

I asked Louis whether this cultural transformation was easier for high tech companies like IBM. He actually thinks it’s the opposite. 

LOUIS: Companies that are growing quickly and bringing on new, younger employees are a natural fit to the way we, as humans, want to behave, so adopting the social business culture occurs much quicker for them than some of the more senior, mature companies, such as IBM. It’s taken us some time to change, and we’re still on the journey of changing.

Check out the rest of my Big Thinkers, Big Ideas interviews on APQC’s Knowledge Base.

Subscribe to the Big Thinkers, Big Ideas podcast on Itunes or on APQCPodcasts on Podbean.

You can connect with me on Twitter @odell_carla

Join me at APQC’s 2016 Knowledge Management Conference in Houston on April 28 and 29, preceded by a week of optional workshops.