Presenting hard data in an insightful and interesting manner is very difficult. Malcolm Gladwell and Jim Collins do so by telling compelling stories, the New York Times, while using stories, also does it through clever infographics.
Forrester have just published an interesting piece of work on the Groundswell blog I encourage you to check out, not only because it’s well presented, but because it should provide some useful insight for KM folk.
The useful insight (theirs not mine)
Forrester have put together a little tool which profiles how different people use social technologies and provides hard data as to use within different age groups & countries (included below). Have a play, its fun, but before you do, reading about the different user profiles will help your understanding.
Okay, now that you’ve enjoyed yourself here’s what I think it means for KM.
In general, the use of social technologies is increasing, but adoption rates vary significantly in differrent countries. For a global firm that will colour your adoption rates and should inform how you deploy social tools. The Germans just aren’t adopting these tools as much as others in Europe. Italy might be your best bet for a pilot of new tools.
Further, age makes a huge different in terms of correlation with a profile. The younger you are, the higher up the ladder you’re likely to be. Funny how those with the least experience are the most eager to share. Seems like a characteristic to nurture.
While the survey was not aimed at lawyers, I believe the results can reasonably be extrapolated to lawyers in their respective countries.
In terms of the different social profiles, here’s my view of what the results mean:
A smallish group, the desire to contribute raw content is not pervasive. While it might not be an area to devote a huge amount of time, it might be worthwhile to consider giving the young’uns access to these tools so that they can share experience with their peers (i.e. trainee to trainee rather than trainee to partner). It may not be PLC quality knowledge, but it might not need to be. In fact, the younger lawyers may be much closer to the knowledge that needs sharing than the Partners (who should be the grunt work).
Commenting on other content is more popular than raw content creation. Tools aimed at capturing knowledge through comments, contributions to wiki articles, content ratings & discussions seem likely to see real use. Again, age plays a big impact in terms of adoption, but arguably, it’s the less experienced who need the tools and are most amenable to KM indoctrination.
Teach them early and often and they just might develop some good habits.
The least popular of all tools, this area just isn’t going to give you as much adoption for your money. Tagging it seems, is for a select group of people. This is a little disappointing (since I obsessively use Delicious) but sometimes the truth hurts. I’d include the users of a number of the classical KM tools in this category as it’s often about profiling existing content.
People like Facebook apparently and of all the profiles that “participate” in the use of social tools, this is the most popular area. Still, a “Facebook for the Enterprise” sounds pretty lame, and I’m not sure there’s a latent desire for KM tools in this space among end-users.
If there is, my sense is that it would need to feel fun and light. What might that look like?
My guess? Not like Sharepoint’s My Site.
Passive consumers, they read things based on interest. Content is king, spend money on PSLs or creating tools for the producers, this lot (tend to be older) aren’t likely to contribute anything.
When you’re this experienced who needs to listen to the views of others? Cater to the needs of others, at most this group aren’t likely to share knowledge using any tool other writing a document or sending an email.