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A Conversation with Chris Collison

1 August 2011

Dr. Moria Levy

Currently, I am working on a knowledge management project for a global client. Chris Collision also takes part in the project. I guess some of you know his name. Chris is an internationally recognized knowledge management consultant, and as I understood from him, last months he has been in the UK (which is also his residency), Vietnam, Russia and those are only part of the list.Chris is known as one of the pioneers in the field of knowledge management and worked for several years in BP- British Petroleum, as a knowledge manager. He is known for the book he co-authored with Jeff Purcell, "Learning to Fly" in which they detailed the knowledge management methodologies as applied in BP.


We spend the last month on phone conversations and e-mails, and still, I was curious to meet him, face to face. I wanted to learn from him about new and similar methodologies, applied today in the field of knowledge management; to learn about knowledge management concepts, practices in different cultures. Unsurprisingly, I was especially curious about the extent of organizational adoption and methods of social media (WEB2.0) for the best of knowledge management.


Here are the things I learned from Chris:Social media platforms are optional; they are more discussed than practiced. Nevertheless, there are more applicable tools in Europe in general and in Britain in particular. Organizations are using social networks (especially MySpace and SharePoint). Some organizations purchase software or install open-code software.


There are various reasons for adopting social media platforms: some do, because it's often a software that can be installed, without a time-consuming selection, and lengthy procurement process; some seek to copy very successful ideas, what they have seen outside the organization (Facebook, for example); and others ask to copy from other knowledge management sources or to search for any right knowledge management tools possible. So far, there is no much difference between us and the entire world.As well, Chris highlighted several ways of social media uses in the organization for the best practice of knowledge management:


  1. WIKI’s has become organizational knowledge management popular database, which applied for any purpose, from managers to any level of employee, not only to contribute but also to modify and update content automatically.

  2. Micro-blogs (like as Twitter) allows users to share with anyone what happens on an everyday basis in the form of text updates, messaging and so on, and it also provides an informal communication tool to promote information, events, and activities.

  3.  Social media (especially personal accounts) helps users to discover expertise of people.

  4. Blogs are mainly used for administrative purposes (internal communications between management and employees). There are several cases where Chris has faced professional blogs, but it indeed not a rule.


Furthermore, I asked Chris what the most popular knowledge management application he had experienced lately.Well, the obvious answer is "Knowledge communities." Communities in which the focus on frequent meetings, sometimes every quarter and in global organizations, usually once a year. In-between, through using computing platform (described as a minimum investment), there are discussions - virtual conversations among people. What is interesting to note is that when employees are required to travel to other offices, they often meet with their community colleagues at one-on-one sessions, so it helps to create additional opportunities in building trusting relationships.The bottom line - There are new trends in knowledge management, but still, mainly traditional solutions.Knowledge communities continue to rule the world.Forever - Who knows? For now, no doubt.

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