Does the potential in social intranets lie in Personal Knowledge Management?

Angie Cullen just listed five key features to consider when choosing a social intranet:

  • Forum Collaboration
  • Social Tagging and Ranking
  • Document Storage & Collaboration
  • Expertise Finder
  • Knowledge Base or Wiki

 They all remind me of my own findings when asking my colleagues what they really need from our intranet, even though I focused less on features:

  • Who knows what, and has which experiences?
  • What did we do in project X, who did it, and what did it lead to?
  • What happens in project X, Y and Z now?
  • How can I contact person X to ask a short question?
  • Sorting what I want to listen to.

 It also reminds me of what Oscar Berg noted as some of the six core digital workplace capabilities in people (via CMS Wire):

  • Coordinating
  • Finding people
  • Networking
  • Meeting
  • Communicating
  • Sharing

How, then, should we be able to perform all these tasks? Building what people often refer to as the social intranet might only be one part of the solution: The social intranet is only technology that can enable the above if people know how. To install all features will only take you so far, and could possibly also backlash on people: “What should I do with all this? Why should I see that Stephan has uploaded a document? I have enough on my table and don’t need this noise.”

I believe the solution to much of the above lies in Personal Knowledge Management, here presented by Harold Jarche. It all starts at the opposite end, by teaching people how to separate the wheat from the chaff in the daily information flood. If we look at Jarche’s three steps, Seek-Sense-Share, we have a lot to do in the first two steps before many social intranet features see their true potential. Without filtering, validation, and synthesis from the users, what they share could mean very little to the others and even disturb them. Meanwhile, what we want is increased efficiency and feeling of ease in a world that grows more complex by the minute.

It would be interesting to hear if Seek and Sense making skills emerge from using a social intranet – just by introducing Sharing features. I have the feeling that we might miss some crucial steps, and that people need training in Personal Knowledge Mangement in order for the social intranets to reach their full potential. Start with Seeking and Sensing, and then the Sharing will be a joy for all.

By Patrik Bergman

Privately: Father, husband, vegetarian, and reader of Dostoyevsky. Professionally: Works as Communications Manager at


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