Social Systems & Knowledge Networks

by Jay Deragon on 05/03/2010

Some people are superb at creating visual tools to illustrate complex subjects. John Maloney is one of those gifted people who can synthesize information into a picture which helps people understand the emerging, and existing, knowledge that rest within an organizations “network” of people and processes.  More importantly the illustration above provides a “systemic view” of how and where social technology integrates into the capabilities infrastructure of an organization.

A “Platform of Knowledge” is representative of what every organization has but most cannot “see or actualize” the knowledge because they lack the understanding to recognize that knowledge is an asset.

Knowledge in Your Social System

Social systems sciences is a loose term for engineered environments which, if successful, attract users to participate. The advent of computers and the internet has enabled new types of social systems to take form.

There are multiple methods of measuring participation within a social system. Reach, engagement, frequency of participation – all tell something about the success of a social system. Organizations are “social systems” however the advent of emerging social technologies has changed the dynamics of interaction which if managed effectively accelerates knowledge transfer and the relevant networks of knowledge organizationally.

All social systems have commonalities. One is that they become more engaging and interesting as more people engage and participate. Another is that with each iteration, or version, very quickly the population or interest reaches a new plateau of learning from the “network of knowledge“.

Organizations are one large social system, split into many smaller social systems. Each “social system” contains dynamic knowledge as people apply what they know and learn from what they don’t know from the interactions and flow of communications. Knowledge is an asset that can and should be actualized by every organization.

What Do Knowledge Assets Look Like?

Like the construction of any tangible asset, an inventory of parts is assembled in strategic proportions.  The ability to accomplish this gives the enterprise a strategic and competitive advantage in a market. Business failures are knowledge failures when the “knowledge network” of people’s experience, insights, imaginations and social capital is not optimized.

Most business failure are due to knowledge deficits such as the inexperienced management team, a poor assessment of market conditions, under estimating the amount of money needed, under estimating a competitor, loss of a key employee, or the poor understanding of the technology, etc.  These are knowledge problems not financial problems. Yet most is not all businesses do not consider or use “knowledge assets” rather they use and measure economic assets and the related cost and gains. Economic losses or gains are the results of using or not using knowledge. Use of an organizations “knowledge network” is what produces results. That is if the organization recognizes their knowledge network. After all like trading options on stocks using, trading and exercising your “knowledge network” is indeed an option. Most do not know how to exercise it properly.

What is the Value of Knowledge Assets?

The value of a knowledge asset is reflected by how effective and efficiently it is used within a social system. Businesses make choices based on what they know and they create things based on what they know. Improving the value of decisions requires an improvement in knowledge.  The value of knowledge is reflected by supply and demand over time.  Having the right knowledge network to improve decisions at the appropriate time is how we reduce the risk of making poor decisions.

Business intent is aimed at producing value for consumption, internally and externally. Value is created from an organizations “social system”. Remember, a social system is an engineered environment which, if successful, attracts users to participate. Participation is relevant to adding new knowledge and relative value to the network of participants. Results come from collective participation and application of knowledge within the network.  Study John’s illustration above in context to the content of this post. Does your social system add value to the knowledge network?

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