October 14, 2009
learning 2.0

The Grocery Store Analogy of Learning, KM, Comm & Content

That crazy cat Luis Suarez over at elsua.net (who I really respect) got me thinking with a recent post entitled “The KM and Social Computing Culture Changes“.

In it he states:

I am sure that you would agree with me that it’s very rare to find some common ground between traditional Knowledge Management and Social Computing. Yet, to be honest, they are both the same! They are both trying to help improve the overall productivity of knowledge workers.

As knowledge and social computing collide (because they are both the same), so too can be said of learning/training/education as well as communication and for that matter, content in general.

Corporations are shifting; formal, informal and social learning is replacing top-down classroom only models. Knowledge, content and the like is not only coming from external industry experts – it comes from user generated (or employee generated) sources.

So, I’ll extend Luis’ argument by including all forms of learning, all forms of communication, and all forms of content.

They are all the same! (and I also wonder if Kevin Jones <who I also respect> might have changed his mind 18 months after this particular post)

What has this got to do with a grocery store?

Imagine content, whether it’s via Knowledge Management, or the ‘old’ training department, or corporate communications, or via document management repositories, or <insert your source> were considered food. You have a shopping cart full of food that you have grown in your own backyard or home, and because you are so altruistic, you are bringing that shopping basket full of food into the store to share with others.

There, you decide to place your food in various but pre-determined sections like the dairy, bakery, pasta, cereal, etc.

You’re conscious of choice and need to eat, so you help yourself to the food of others that has already been placed in the various sections.

It’s a utopian state of food; if we substitute food for content … this same mechanism can be applied in an organization, no matter the size.

If a company can create the right structure within the grocery store, so that the food doesn’t go bad, it doesn’t slide off the shelves, it’s properly tagged & priced, and ultimately it’s both a consumption and contribution model … everybody wins. As I’ve written about before, I think there are all sorts of new roles to play as well.

Shouldn’t this be the new moonshot for an organization?

Shouldn’t this moonshot include all forms of content, and serve it up whether it’s formal, informal or social in nature?

3 Replies to “The Grocery Store Analogy of Learning, KM, Comm & Content”

  1. It’s kind of a grocery store combined with gigantic yard sale, then? I’m picturing teams (small) or groups (larger) who’ve created stuff useful to them making it available to others. In a way, that’s like the WordPress Codex, where history, facts, features, and how-tos from the basic to the highly technical are collected.

    As you suggest, the structure is key–and even for WordPress, which I think is a relatively closed community, over time things have changed. The platform for the Codex has changed, as has its organization, guidelines, and the role of “a devoted group of moderators to enforce these guidelines.” (from Codex:About)

    I’m intrigued by the notion, though my years in corporate life don’t fill me with optimism that it’s easily achieved, or goals even easily agreed upon. I’m listening, though.

  2. Great example with WordPress Codex Dave.

    My corporate glass continues to be half-full and I hope, with optimism, logic, understanding and wins along the way, the org does in fact move to a much more heterarchical model of both operation and contribution/consumption.

  3. rare to find some common ground between traditional Knowledge Management and Social Computing. Yet, to be honest, they are both the same! They are both trying to help improve the overall productivity of knowledge workers.

    As you point out in your commentary following Luis’ quote, it’s a mystery as to why more execs don’t seem to understand that people work today most often by exchanging information towards achievement of an objective. The exchanges increasingly carried by social computing is what work is becoming .. and it wraps into itself learning, KM, and performance “management”.

    Today’s operations in an enterprise are based on a continual process of consumption (of information) and contributions (of information and knowledge) .. again as you have pointed out.

    I believe that this realization will become inevitable .. kudos to you and your company if you collectively arrive at that realization more quickly and more easily than other still-dominated-by-Taylorist mental models.

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