When I started my work in product management at SAP, we all used the typical ways of communication – predominantly emails, phones and……. well, that was about it. It was not quite convenient, but that’s what everyone used, so we too used them. Later, we discovered wiki as a great way of building up content over a period of time and sharing it with a wide audience.
Well, the story is not about the wiki. It’s about what the wiki led to. We discovered new contacts from other teams, who started following our wiki. And with these new contacts we got great ideas – design concepts, innovations, new methodologies, which benefitted our work in a big way.
Again, the story is not about the wiki.
The story is about the limits of our network and the boundaries of our conversations. Looking at those important connections I made through the wiki, its unnerving that such connections were only by-chance, by-products of a wiki. Given their importance, I should have had a more direct way of reaching them.
But this is not surprising. Out important links to information are just serendipitous outcomes of chance encounters – friends of friends, some conversation with an old friend, an interesting acquaintance from a conference event and so on.
Taking cue from the very popular Johari Window, I drew this ‘Window of Communication’ in organizations.
Our conversations happen almost all the time in the Open area. We talk about things that we know and that others know. Even when we don’t know something, we know who to ask. Though, there’s almost a philosophical belief that a better idea or a solution lies somewhere out there, we still try the solution that we know. That is because, finding that better information takes efforts and is not easy. And there are still areas which are totally unknown – like the ideas that we got from our wiki contacts, things that we have been waiting for all along, but never realized their importance till we saw them.
So such hidden information are just not of the ‘nice to have’ variety, but are, most of the time, essential in increasing the efficiency of day-to-day work. A recent IDC report says that information works spend 15-30% of their precious time only in searching for information (and more on analysing, classifying and disseminating this information). It all refers to the efforts we put in when we don’t find the necessary information in our open area.
One of the main intentions of KineticGlue is to make this tacit knowledge, more common knowledge –freeing information and taking it to people who would benefit from it. It’s not just about a great search engine – that’s bringing people to information (and by the way, we have it in KineticGlue). It’s about a host of social engineering features that bring information to people. It’s about getting useful information to people, without them explicitly asking for it. It’s about making serendipity much more common.