Prompted by an old friend seeking insights on blogging today, the following thoughts emerged…

My first attempt at blogging was before “Blogging” was a word, during virtual team working days. This was back in the early nineties.

As a leader of an early virtual team, I felt that I needed a way to let everyone know what I was doing and experiencing (meeting and planning wise) and I intermingled this with how I felt about it all (and the impact this had on our work and my own life).

The response I felt from the team was one of distinct discomfort. The depth and frequency of logging my reflections was presenting them with “too much information”. Plus they believed that they had to read my missives and continually adjust what they were doing accordingly (to adapt to the knowledge of an ever-changing tide “at the top”).

My “learning” at the time was that in a context where virtual team interactions were more transactional than transitional – let alone transformational – information was preferred to knowledge and knowledge was preferred to wisdom. Nobody knew what to do with wisdom when they were geared up and motivated to progress down a prepared pathway like a good group of soldiers – even if the leader realised they had landed on the wrong island. (Thanks for the metaphor, Steven Covey.)

Over time, learning to share my deepest insights to the advantage of others has required my also learning to be receptive to their deepest insights (and related concerns). I recall the death knell observation of one participant in a one-way “sharing” I was monitoring awhile back. “X is an interesting man. Too bad he is not interested in us.” When I heard that utterance, I knew it was the beginning of the end for ‘X’ in the role he was in. Social learning can rapidly escalate your ascension AND your downfall.

I’m currently experimenting with fostering social learning in a new-to-me area. Drawn to it by compassion (as well as the professional challenge of it all), I’ve put a lot on the line to do so – more than two years of non-billable time so far. I’m applying all the KM and virtual team experiences I can recall / re-create / re-engineer into the process. Getting people on all sides to participate and talk with and then trust me has been relatively easy. Facilitating the creation and moderation of a digital environment for them to listen to, talk about and learn from each other’s experiences without my direct involvement has been thus far only modestly successful.

Spanning the gaps between the societal ‘entrenched’ and the socially ‘disenfranchised’ requires stretching every psychological, technological and methodological sinew I have. In an environment where animosity overwhelms honesty and distrust decidedly thrusts itself in front of an otherwise rational mind, even modest successes are treasured. These successes have mostly been enabled via semi-private email, telephone and in-person avenues so far..

Moving the dialogue into a more visible / sharable space is my 2012 objective.  I want to enable people to be easily sifting through the growing groundswell of grumbles to find the golden nuggets that when applied in their own context, will work for them to reverse the tides of their ‘misfortunes’. Ultimately and perhaps unreasonably, I hope that Social KM can become a golden goose that helps turn grumbles into gold.