Knowledge is increasingly being seen as the most important strategic asset in organizations and a crucial resource to achieve sustainable competitive advantage. Given that a significant amount of organizational knowledge resides in the minds and interactions of employees, it is important for organizations to understand what motivates employees to share existing knowledge, to produce new knowledge and what prevents them from doing so. When organizations understand the principles and determinants of knowledge sharing an exchange among employees, appropriate practices can be designed and implemented in order to encourage knowledge productivity and thereby enhance productivity, innovation and overall organizational competitiveness.
Social Media and Knowledge Productivity
Practices induced by social media have potential to open up a new virtual culture of learning and knowledge productivity. The development is already under way – there are massive amounts of applications that can be used to share, compare and exchange information, opinions, gossip, pictures and user generated videos and programs. The use of social media is rapidly growing on the internet, where utilization is becoming more social, interactive and collaborative. Employees are accustomed to everyday use of social media tools (e.g. instant messaging, wiki, blogs…) in their free time. This is especially so when it comes to the younger generation of employees, i.e. those who have grown up with the internet and learned to use it in their everyday life. This creates pressures within companies to start using these tools in everyday use outside the company also in working places.
The information technology research company Gartner states that social media is starting to be essential for companies. We are shifting from closed and hierarchical workplaces having strict employee relationships to more self-organized, interactive and collaborative human capital networks that gain and create new knowledge from inside and outside the firm. Social media can be utilized to develop corporate attitudes towards collaboration, openness, shared decision making power and knowledge sharing instead of blocking the flow of knowledge. Social media offers many possibilities to develop corporate actions if it is utilized in an appropriate way.
Besides the many possibilities offered by social media, a company also faces a lot of challenges when starting to utilize social media in learning and kwowledge productivity practices. It’s a challenge to a company to find out operational models to get all employees to use social media tools irrespective of their mindset towards social media, competences and prejudices. According to Tapscott and Williams (2008) digital immigrants in particular are to encounter challenges in adopting new Social Media tools and new ways of working. They will face a paradigm shift from old customary ways of working to newer, more open and collaborative working methods. Digital natives are already accustomed to Social Media tool use and they will not encounter a paradigm change this time. Digital natives are instead the generation that will cause the change to the new open, interactive and collaborative ways of working when they enter the employment market.
Personal verus Organizational Change
I can agree on the fact that it will be important for individual knowledge workers to develop of set of beliefs and competences in order to fully use the power of social media for their learning and knowledge productivity as stated above. However, next to these individual needs of transformation a shift is needed in the way we shape our organizations. In January 2011, over 1,9 billion were online. The biggest part of them is connected online in social networks, where they communicate, play, do business, make content etc. with each other. They do this, without any need on interventions of organizations. That a lot of people and organizations have to get used to this transition is not staggering because the industrial era has taken almost 250 years. Our society and economy are fully designed on that. Generations long we have worked on the improvement of processes.
The transition into organizations 2.0 and knowledge workers 2.0 is not progressing very easy. For that, we still have to pull down a lot of walls that were build the last 100 years between departments and organizations. But by doing that, we put a lot of tension on the powerful and well established concepts of the industrial era: manageability and hierarchic structures, fixed functions and workflow, control, procedures. These concepts no longer work in a society were flexibility, globalization, diversity, network, knowledge work and sharing, passion, autonomy and authenticity play a role of growing importance.