I thought this was a comment…

29 July, 2008

A couple of interesting things came up in the comments on my last post. Mary Abraham has found new energy for the concept of ‘encouraged’ internal blogging as a reflective tool, and Michael Axelsen talked about the potential pitfalls of corporate blogging. Today I’m going to tackle the first issue, writing for a corporate blog has been a challenge for me lately and I reckon there is a whole other post on that topic!

I’ll start with the guts of Mary’s comment on my last post

“It’s hard when a tool used initially for primarily social purposes is moved within a corporate environment. There inevitably is a restriction of freedom that comes with that transition. While I understand and sympathize with the social media purists, I’m also cognizant of the needs of the organizations that adopt these tools.”

I must admit, I’ve always struggled when rigid frameworks are applied to a concept. I did a KM subject at uni that focused on Communities of Practice. This was my first exposure to CoPs and the concept blew me away. Until that point I had never even considered informal learning, and knew little about knowledge management. Unfortunately I couldn’t get my head around the lecturer’s definition of a CoP, he described it as a very specific group with a very specific purpose. Rather than encouraging debate about natural knowledge communities that we had observed in our workplaces and how we could encourage them as part of a learning strategy; he debated with us for the entire class about which groups fitted the CoP mould and which didn’t. In the end I think we missed an opportunity to discuss how we could enhance our practice using this concept because we got caught up on details of the definition.

I see this happening in the response to Mary’s initial post. Sure, what is described is not necessarily a social activity, but does that mean it has no purpose or value? Today Mary advanced the argument for reflective blogging even further:

“This seems like a legitimate request for management to make. If employees have learned something, this request will encourage them to record that information where it can be shared and used by others. If they are given the time to reflect and the tools to record their reflections but don’t have anything to record, that’s an important indication to management.

…Does management need to take a closer look at the organizational culture that permits this approach?”

In response to Mary’s post, I found myself wondering where a tool is classified as social media, if a blog is purely used for reflective purposes, is it social media? If I use del.icio.us only to keep track of my bookmarks between work and home (as I did for the first few months I used the tool), is that social media?

I don’t know the answer to that but I do think that we should look at tools in terms of potential use, rather than typical use.


13 Responses to “I thought this was a comment…”

  1. Lilly Says:

    There is another issue to consider when discussing the use of blogs internally (or in general really). You quoted Mary saying that “If they are given the time to reflect and the tools to record their reflections but don’t have anything to record, that’s an important indication to management.” but I am not sure I agree.

    There are people who will find the idea of writing a blog which is read by their peers very confronting and therefore may not feel comfortable to write much. Also, the difficulty in formatting and organizing the website can be off-putting to the average person.

    I think that sometimes people who spend a lot of time working with these media forget how difficult and confusing these things can be. That having been said, if I were told I had to adopt these methods instead of having the choice I would find it of much less value as I would have even more emotional barriers to jumping on board.

    Who doesn’t put more effort and thought into something they chose to do than something they see as being a time-waster. It would also require a lot of information support (and not just a one-off basic training) if I were to start an internal blog that’s for sure!

  2. Mick Leyden Says:

    Hi Lilly,

    You raise some very good points. I can absolutely relate to the trepidation felt by many new bloggers, I felt it myself.

    If the goal of the blogging initiative is to encourage an employee to reflect on their work practice,I believe we should to give them control over publication. The manager’s responsibility is to talk to their employee about the experience of reflection, and provide time and support to allow the employee to do it.

    Over time if the employee feels that their reflection is valued by the organisation, their confidence to publish their posts will grow.

    As you say there are many people who will never feel confident to put their thoughts ‘out there’ and I believe thats ok, as there is value to be gained through the process of reflection not just in the publication of the reflection.

    I think employee reflection is good. Reflection and publication is better.


  3. Mary Abraham Says:

    Mick –

    You’re definitely on to something when you wonder whether we’ve been a little too indiscriminate with the label of social media and its application to tools like blogs. I do hope you’ll explore this further. I’m looking forward to an interesting conversation!


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