top of page

From Knowledge Management to Collaboration Management in the age of Web 2.0 and Generation Y

1 March 2009
Dr. Asher Idan
A hand on a keyboard

The relationship between Knowledge Management and Web 2.0 has previously been misunderstood. Knowledge Management is a collection of processes and methodologies. Web 2.0 is a collection of infrastructures and tools, mainly a broadband infrastructure and tools such as blogs and social networks.

If Knowledge Management is like transporting goods (be it industrial or produce) then Web 2.0 is the infrastructure and tools on which the goods are transported (camels and roads or trucks and highways). Web 2.0 is the second generation of the internet. Web 1.0 is the first generation, that came to an end in 2005 and included organizational portals, email and a concentrative management approach. A decade ago, knowledge was managed based on a Web 1.0 infrastructure; 100 years ago, knowledge was managed on a "folder" infrastructure; a 1000 years ago the infrastructure was mainly parchment-based.

Nowadays, knowledge is managed using a Web 2.0 infrastructure: blogs, social networks, tags, Wiki, YouTube videos, etc.

The term "Knowledge Management" first appeared with the emergence of the personal computerization revolution in the 1980s, aka the decade of personal computerization and the pre-internet local network yet blew up majorly in the 1990s aka the internet decade. The number of academic papers on Knowledge Management published in the 1980s is in the mere tens; the number of academic materials published on Knowledge Management in the 1990s is in the hundreds.

The first internet revolution (Web 1.0) led to a revolution not only in the field of Knowledge Management but also in many other knowledge methodologies and information technologies, including: BI, CMS, CRM, and many more. This general technological acceleration included Knowledge Management as well. However, Knowledge Management has died in recent years, and has been reborn as Collaboration Management due to two main factors: a. technological. b. cultural-demographic.

Technologically speaking, the initial internet or Web 1.0 reflected an old world merely masquerading as a new world. The concentrative was managerial and managed in the intra-organizational intranet or by television/newspaper corporations in the consumeristic internet. In other words, content was copied verbatim from newspapers or company folders and was uploaded to the internet. The more advanced Web 2.0, on the other hand, created an entirely new infrastructure that enabled a new type of content and methodologies: social networks, blogs, Wiki, YouTube, etc. For example, viewer comments aren't something you can find neither on Tv nor in an old folder.

Culturally-demographically speaking, Generation Y (those born after 1975) has emerged in the form of a set of morals and psyche vastly different from their predecessors, the Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1975). The Baby Boomers generation was both into mass media, mass organization and mass education. Everyone related to the individual as a passive creature that must be approached in an actual-scientific monologue ending with the final verdict of experts and managers using platforms that allow no more than a monologue. Generation Y, however, was born holding a personal computer and the internet which allow a level of responsiveness and criticism higher than ever before.

Let's see how this is shown in a number of published studies.

The Generation Y youngsters need less planning and more coordination; less taxonomy and more folksonomy, less synchronization and more asynchronization. They are therefore more efficient: they don't need a fixed schedule, they need lessons to be coordinated via asynchronized tools. They don't need a fixed classroom or office, they need a virtual class or office. They don't need redemption or harmony; they seek more tolerable pain. They wish to go beyond themselves, they are not total, rather infinite (to borrow the terms from Emanuel Levinas). The advertisement most effective for this audience is therefore neither positivistic or ontological, rather ethical and transcendental. They multi-task, they are multi-instrumental. They are quantic and perhaps even Anti-oedipal (to use Deleuze's terms).

Some of them seclude themselves from society. However, in this day and age we must review whether only physical presence indicates sociability; perhaps virtual presence is just as indicative of sociability? What if someone sits physically in a classroom or an office filled with people yet does not interact with anyone- should this really be considered sociability?

In a post-iPhone age, anyone can bring their computer to work. All the organization needs to supply is Wi-Fi. The iPhone designers understood that generation Y views technology as an amplifier to its user. Designers therefore do not address generation Y's current reality but their dreams.

The gap between organization's and their heads of IT and their new workers that are products of generation Y is increasingly growing. In the past, organization would supply workers with uniforms. Nowadays, organizations supply their workers with their uniform computerization (software and hardware). We 'old folks' don't come to work wearing uniform; similarly, Generation Y youngsters don't want uniform computerization. They want their own personalized computerization and resent the workplace's interference in their own personal taste. In a post-iPhone age, workers can bring their own personal laptop to work; all the organization needs to supply is Wi-Fi.

Approximately 75% of Generation Y workers use online computerization besides that supplied by the organization. Approximately 50% of Generation Y workers claim that Web 2.0 tools supplied by the workplace plays a substantial role in their preference of one workplace over another.

After seeing how Generation Y workers operate and think, let's review how their new technological and financial environment encourages them to share much more than Baby Boomers.

We will see that the technology in Generation Y's environment enables the "free economy" which requires a totally new organization structure as well as new organization of our psyche.

There are three reasons to distribute something for no cost:

  1. An attempt to create an addiction

  2. Subsidizing one product through another (a gift given when opening a bank account). The internet, due to its immense linking abilities, can significantly increase the number of subsidized products at a given moment.

  3. A drastic plummet of the product's price, such as the marginal costs of cloud computerization suppliers that in any case enjoy an excess of hard drive space for operating their search engines. This excess can be provided for free; users therefore benefit from this service infinitely.

The reduction of computerization prices is due to several factors:

Firstly, an exponential increase of abilities (storage, processing, software, content, bandwidth). Digital economy is based on quantum physical principles while the mechanical economy is based on mechanical physical principles. The rise of YouTube can be attributed to a combination of price reduction and a substantial upgrade of technological abilities in the three aforementioned areas.

Secondly, the exponential increase of production abilities due to the rise of developing countries in flat world globalization (according to Thomas Friedman).

There are two explanation for the free economy:

  1. Lessig's Explanation regarding the adherence to internet protocols at the base of all applications uploaded to the web (advertisements, newspapers, television, music, etc.)

  2. Anderson's explanation based on the known financial principle regarding price reduction in a competitive market till its production cost (marginal cost):

    a. The internet is the ultimate competitive market

    b. Its costs are virtually nothing, due to cyber-space's exponential principles.

Carver Mead (right after Gordon Moore) predicted that approximately every two years the price of a computer transistor is cut in half! And so, a transistor that in the1960s cost 30 dollars in 2008 a mere 0.000001 cents.

This means that transistors should be wasted!

Not only computer personnel were taught to conserve computerization resources. The entire modern industrial economy is based on lacks and needs. However, exponential economy is based on will and excess.

The shift from TUI (a textual interface, like DOS's operation system) to GUI (a graphic interface, like Microsoft's Windows) is based on the ability to waste computerization resources; so is cloud computerization (aka "digital reading powerplants, that provide not electricity but software-storage-processing). In this setting it is natural for content and entertainment to be chief components.

The difference between 'free' and 'cheap' is not quantitative but qualitative. 'Free' is simply riding the exponential waves. This is the different between a huge marker (advertising on Google or Craigslist) and a small market (advertising in a newspaper). In 2006, Craigslist sold 40 million dollars in ads. The newspaper advertisement branch, on the other hand, lost 326 million dollars in ad sales. Craigslist, it seems, took 12% from what the newspapers lost. What about the remaining 88% (286 million dollars)? They went to the users.

To better understand free economy, we must shift from a two-plater financial model (buyer-seller) to a financial model of three players:

  • Player A sells consumers that receive for free (such as a newspaper or television)

  • Player B consumes for free (by reading the newspaper or watching the TV)

  • Player C buys consumers (an advertiser that pays the TV station to provide him/her with viewers that might buy from player C)

Business models of free content:

Selling information on consumers

Encouraging subscription sale via additional free content

Content supplemented to e-commerce

Selling consumers

Milton Friedman's mistake and an economy based on lack and needs

Due to exponential principles, the production and distribution costs are nearly nonexistent. Money is currently less important than reputation, attention and respect. Furthermore, the latter can be evaluated in today's internet environment. Google has found a conversion method for these four financial energies: money, reputation, attention and respect.

The new economy and technology also create a "new psyche". Free from lack and needs, we can now turn to higher functions. This is true both organizationally and cognitively. Creativity and memorization. This is why design has replaced engineering as the main competitive component and content is now given preference over software. Post-basic has become the competitive edge of both individuals and organizations, basic skills being reading and arithmetic and pos-basic skills being analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and creativity/evaluation.

Sharing knowledge for free Vs. guarding expensive knowledge thus referring to knowledge as power. Basic and useful skills compared to high skills can be analogized to basic and high resources.

The new approaches to Knowledge Management require new approaches in the world of organizational directing and in the education system. The industrial economy and print-based learning has been replaced by internet-based learning and economy. Nevertheless, the evaluation system (namely, tests) and work selection in schools and universities are still based on outdated principles originating in the 19th Century. We must develop a new evaluation system that can allow us to review our workers/students/pupils' merits in the new skills required in our age of internet. The old skills that include obedience, memorization and practice must make way in favor of criticality, teamwork, constant learning and sharing.

The report presented by The Council of Competitiveness, an association of CEOs of hi-tech companies the scale of Intel, has called for Obama to improve the American science and technology studies program. This was criticized by Bade that argues that not science and technology, rather new business models and new business processes that will apply these technologies will provide the US a competitive advantage. Implementation, distribution, marketing is the most important.

Furthermore, in the flat-tailed age of Web 2.0 globalization, scientific technological innovation is expected to come from closed facilities such as universities and command centers that have no access to collective intelligence resources both on a micro level (the organization as a whole rather than only the "professional" researchers) and a macro level (the entire world). Collective intelligence resources are vital in terms of the total weight, network effect and the sensors of other cultures and markets.

Furthermore, in the flat world in which India and china produce ten times more engineers and programmers than the US and 1,000 times the amount produced by Israel, neither of the latter have a competitive edge due to programming or engineering skills. However, they might have an advantage in the field of design, UX psychology and the religious approach to fetishes and iPhone-shaped totems. An American researcher would also not understand the needs of an Indian fisherman that needs micro-technology (cellular organizational computerization for a Bangladeshi fisherman) and micro-finances.

Engineering and programing are still directed according to the production line method. This method's limitations are evident in the following cases:

  • Negotiation

  • Writing an article

  • Developing a product

  • Solving a customer's problem

In each of these cases one must shift from handling tacit knowledge to addressing the tacit interaction and collaboration. This requires jazz-like improv, not concert-like stiffness.

During the Web 1.0 era, organizational computerization systems have mainly developed transaction tools. In the ago of Web 2.0, the emphasis has shifted to collaboration tools. 70% of new jobs in the US require collaboration and interaction skills. Examples of this emphasis on collaboration management include Google's chaos and rotation method, Scrum's software development, SocialText's content development and ActionBase's hybrid development.

bottom of page