In The World is Flat (2007), Friedman described the ‘Triple Convergence,’ or a confluence of three systemic changes that created a new economic and technological environment. These changes, which generally included the emergence of new players in the world economy, the opening of new world markets, and the development of new processes and habits for collaboration, enabled companies and individuals to approach knowledge management and business processes from a horizontal perspective. This perspective, which redefined knowledge as a community, rather than exclusive property, was made possible by the development, use, and widespread adoption of communications technologies, data storage devices, and other internet-related technological advancements. According to Friedman, the ‘Convergence’ lessened the importance of systemic control and increased the need for companies and individuals to expand access to knowledge, consider outcomes and effects instead of hierarchical power relationships, and develop new tools and technologies to increase collaboration (2007).
Within this environment, the rise of the internet enabled knowledge to diffuse much faster and provided all members of the organization with the ability to access information regardless of rank or position. Furthermore, according to Jarche (2010), the advanced communication capabilities that the internet provided increased reaction times and feedback loops, making it necessary for individuals to search for and access answers in real-time. This forced individuals to rely on trusted colleagues and friends for quick answers to business issues. Jarche identified this cycle as ‘Social Learning,’ and stressed that the trust relationships necessary to support Social Learning develop over time through shared experiences and interactions (2010). This suggests workers who deepen social relationships with a cadre of trusted colleagues and rely on those colleagues to provide advice and guidance function more effectively in an interconnected, fast-moving world. Furthermore, in doing so, workers acquire knowledge during these information exchanges, which increases their competence, and they are able to pass this learned knowledge to other members of their trusted circle.
Friedman’s Triple Convergence and Jarche’s Social Learning are both predicated on the idea that the internet and its associated tools and capabilities have created an environment where knowledge resides in the masses and learning occurs in a horizontal manner. Dixon supports this idea; in her 2009 analysis of knowledge management, she identified that knowledge management professionals must transition from a pre-internet standard of hierarchical, concentrated knowledge to a diffused, diverse, and community-based knowledge management perspective. In doing so, Dixon suggested knowledge professionals expand access to knowledge repositories, provide community members with the ability to edit repositories, encourage diversity, and incorporate social media into a comprehensive knowledge management strategy. If implemented properly these steps will result in a knowledge management capability that is appropriate in a world where users generate content, access to information is not dependent on organizational position, and collaborative engagement is a typical business practice.
Of the resources highlighted above, Friedman’s Triple Convergence described the changing environment, Jarche’s Social Learning outlined learning-specific behavioral reactions to that environment, and Dixon’s thoughts highlighted ways to excel in the resultant new knowledge management paradigm. Taken together, these three ideas suggest that knowledge is now socially developed, and businesses must make knowledge easily accessible from all hierarchical levels in order to maximize productivity. Furthermore, businesses must treat knowledge as community property that can be augmented, changed, and expanded by all community members. To facilitate these attitudes, leaders must develop organizational cultures that stress collaboration, openness, and sharing. Furthermore, leaders must consciously democratize knowledge, and create systems that enable all organization members to access as much data as possible and contribute data. Additionally, leaders should incorporate Jarche’s Social Learning by creating peer mentoring opportunities, giving new workers the opportunity to learn from more experienced employees, and creating a company wiki resource that allows any employee to contribute. In an environment where speed, access, and tools allow workers to seamlessly collaborate across time zones, store massive amounts of data, and crowdsource the answers to difficult organizational issues, organizations that trend toward openness in the knowledge management arena will be better able to use new technologies and react to cultural and business changes. This makes leaders responsible for developing an open, collaborative culture, and suggests that inspiring these attitudes toward knowledge management will have positive individual and organizational consequences.
Dixon, N. (May 2, 2009). Where Knowledge Management Has Been and Where It Is Going. Conversation Matters. Retrieved from http://www.nancydixonblog.com/2009/05/where-knowledge-management-has-been-and-where-it-is-going-part-one.html
Friedman, T. (2007). The World is Flat (3rd ed.) New York: Picador.
Jarche, H. (February 24, 2010). A framework for social learning in the enterprise. Retrieved from http://www.jarche.com/2010/02/a-framework-for-social-learning-in-the-enterprise/