Nick Milton had a good point, when he got crumpy on the coffee corner metapher (KM and coffee machines – as long as it is that productive, keep on being crumpy, Nick!): The virtual coffee corner doesn’t serve tea.
When we in Ericsson
still had offices (only some weeks ago), I was sitting with a Senior Customer Project Manager. And true, I never went to the coffee machine with him to ask a question. And when I had a question to my boss, I went to him, not to the coffee machine, in order to ask. Germany
No, Nick you are right, the coffee machine is not a good metapher for KM. The virtual coffee machine is not for strong ties and it is not for cases, when you know, what you don’t know. Then you are much better of with Communities of Practices, Subject Matter Experts, After Action Reviews and KM structured according to the processes.
|via stockxchng Market Cafetaria 2 by stylesr1|
The coffee corner is a metapher for the use of Social Media in Knowledge Management to build a network of weak ties and mutual understanding. When you and your colleagues must rely on serendipity, because you don’t know, what you don’t know or you don’t know what you know.
There was a time in my business life when I had to fly to
almost every two weeks, and I had constantly too much coffee. Why? There was always a business purpose for the trip, no doubt, but there was always a huge network of people, “just” to talk to over coffee. And it was business all the time, because we had not much else in common, but it was business in general terms, understanding what they were working on, what problems were nagging me, what was happening in the organization and to people. These talks were creating the mutual knowledge, the understanding, which enabled me afterwards to very effectively (not efficiently!) share knowledge. I knew what would fit their context and what would create value. Sweden
When I had tried to learn from failures (e.g. activity-based KPIs), I found it helpful to look at work patterns (I am fully aware that this here is very sketchy, more details you find at: A new work pattern – sharing, the power of sharing, mutual knowledge – yet to come).
You can distinguish between: Working on own agenda; seeing the big picture/learning/creating mutual understanding; and sharing.
The crucial part is not so much the sharing itself (that can be IT based), but the learning part, the part of seeing the big picture, the part of creating mutual understanding, the part where a common context is created, which transforms information into knowledge.
If this mutual understanding is lacking, we happen to fill databases with tons of useless information. But a virtual coffee corner is not mandatory. If the mutual understanding is there,
- because you and your colleagues are tight together by a firm KM process
- because you sit in the same garage company garage
- because you are down under but share exactly the same working context,
you probably don’t need a virtual coffee machine, and tea is fine.
But in my expierence internally in a global company in 175+ countries with 90.000+ employee and externally, a virtual coffee corner is a business space and it is needed. But that doesn’t mean the whole working day should be spent there.