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The Power of Networks—A Conversation with Euan Semple

Posted by Lucidea on 7/22/2016

networkpower-hs.jpgEarlier this year, we presented a “KM Conversation” with well-known enterprise social network expert and consultant Euan Semple. During our session “The New Knowledge Ecosystem: Content and Connection,” Lucidea’s COO Phil Green discussed with Euan the imperative for librarians and other knowledge professionals to participate in enterprise social networks.

During this KM Conversation, Euan Semple referenced his time at the BBC, where they implemented “bulletin boards” which gave BBC staff the ability to raise all sorts of topics and discuss all sorts of topics—and also point to information. This is an example of how an enterprise social network becomes, in some respects, a search tool.

In Euan’s examples, he refers to “assisted search,” meaning that people could, as might be expected, respond to questions with hyperlinks to relevant information, but also (unlike a search engine) put context around both the question and the answer.

I say “tomato,” you say “to-may-to”

In one specific scenario, during an online conversation about what could be claimed when using one’s own car for business purposes, the varied individual responses alerted the HR department to the need to post a link to the official policy—indeed, to let people know it existed—and also surfaced scenarios where different parts of the business could and should interpret it differently… allowing renewed focus on coming up with the "best answer."

As time goes by…

It should be noted that, as Euan Semple reminds us, an enterprise social network retains a "legacy of the conversations," and often the answers change over time. Sometimes asking the question again isn’t frustrating; it surfaces and reflects the fact that things have moved on. An online network reflects the organic nature of organizational endeavors—demonstrating progress, and building a body of knowledge from which future participants can benefit.

Ease of use

Networks are frictionless. People understand them in ways they don’t understand search engines, and they expect to use them in their professional lives, just as they use them in their personal lives. With a social knowledge network, asking the question is frictionless, and then people are the natural language processors—interpreting and adding context, and pointing where to go for specific information. Per Phil Green, "Information professionals should pile on, and point people to the right answers—building their own authority and building their value within the network."

When is a subject matter expert really a subject matter expert?

Librarians and other information professionals know that the ability to share, find and refine the right answers is an extremely powerful mechanism. People operate through trusted networks and come to know whose information is more trustworthy than others'. Organizations often place people in charge of topics, and their titles make it clear they are authorities… even if they haven’t demonstrated that authority. For knowledge workers, it can be difficult to challenge this, but online networks offer the opportunity.

It’s in your job description

Euan Semple shared a quote from The ClueTrain Manifesto, in which the authors describe the power of the internet as "globally distributed, near-instant, person-to-person conversations." Remember, librarians are essential not only for the activities they perform, but for what they know, with all its breadth and context. Sharing that insight through active participation in social knowledge networks and the global, near-instant conversations they facilitate is now a professional obligation.

Hear more from Euan Semple and Phil Green on this topic when you link to "The New Knowledge Ecosystem: Content and Connection." And if you have suggestions for additional topics in our series of "KM Conversations" with such luminaries as Stephen Abram, Stan Garfield and Euan Semple, please let us know.

Topics: Library Management, Enterprise Social Networks