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The Future of KM: Understanding C-Generation


By now you´ve probably heard of C-Generation. If you haven´t let me sum it up for you; C-generation is a term derived from social media which describes the connected consumer: People who are constantly shifting to social networks and making use of technology in order to connect and share content with one another. Gen-Y is spearheading this change and in 10 years time they will become the predominant workforce.

Behind the bewildering social chaos that some associate with social networks, there lies a more approachable and easier method to get content to flow easier. For companies this means that they will have to turn digital and adapt to the new communication methods if they really want to engage Gen-Y.  New conversations are sparked as we speak. Just take a look at how many people are sharing content as you read this blog. Your tweet deck has probably filled up and you’re probably getting ready to start a video conference with a partner in some far away location.

For KM this means that the culture paradigm is shifting as “sharing” has become the new code. Its almost natural for Gen-Y to engage others and rapidly push information across networks. It´s all about gaining perspective and building a KM model based on social learning.  We will have to learn to engage C-gen and we have to start right now.

However, there´s still some underlying topics we have to consider. For example, let´s take a look at the following contribution from Euan Semple, former KM Head at BBC.

“Many Moons ago when I was Director of KM at the BBC and my boss asked for a one sentence description of my job I suggested “increasing the frequency and the quality of conversations that get your job done. I was told that the word conversation wasn´t businesslike enough and this is the reaction social still gets in many businesses”.

C-Generation thrives on conversations in order to enhance knowledge flow. Informal is now formal and it´s proving to be a powerful vehicle for knowledge generation. “Ba” as Nonaka called it, now unifies physical and virtual spaces in which people come together in order to transmit and acquire knowledge. It might still be tough for senior leaders to come to terms with this new reality but stay calm: this doesn’t mean that we will have to transform the company´s intranet into a facebook like portal overnight. There are still many things we have to get right before shifting towards the social experience. Identifying critical knowledge, aligning KM actions with key business goals,  applying lessons learned, etc. will still prove to be important success factors.

As for culture, KM will probably earn a well deserved vacation; there are still many skeptics but its happening as we speak right now. Let´s think for a moment about any social network where we are a fed with various types of information regarding technology, business, news, trends, etc. In order to quickly grasp what content is more valuable we rely on our community to curate content and enhance it by providing additional insight. This is the way social media works and is quite impressive in terms of social learning. 

In the consumer world there are many people who not only share content but also post valuable thoughts regarding their experience as consumers or professionals. C-generation is deeply concerned about having access to that information before taking certain decisions. Trust doesn’t even seem to impose a challenge. I remember when we kicked off KM in 2008 we had to start with a deep cultural strategy  and part of the actions undertaken were tied to creating instances where people could come together in order interact. This way they could get to know each other and generate a common bond. Believe it or not, this was crucial in order for them to share knowledge.

However, this doesn’t seem to prove a problem for C-generation who are happy to receive and share knowledge. Social Learning is becoming the new K-worker experience.

There are some that question this stating that all people regardless of their generation are instinctively protective of themselves and will still retain valuable knowledge in order to prevent losing their “competitive advantage”. It would be interesting to examine this trend in organizations. One of my team members is conducting a study in our company in order to understand if we are just simply seeing a small portion of C-generation engaging in social learning. I’m eager to analyze the results and build up on that experience in order to shape our KM activities for young professionals.

Some final thoughts: As we continue to build up on KM, many professionals still feel that we need to work on a new set of competencies in order to engage K-workers and enhance their capacity to acquire and share knowledge. This is something that is currently being perceived as “personal knowledge management” and social media is one more component that we have to consider. Sharing knowledge through digital networks reduces face-to-face contact and we have to pursue new competencies in order to find what we need in the vast social grapevine and effectively transmit what we know. Conversations will help to link ideas and enhance context but will require someone to align them with business objectives and identify underlying critical knowledge.

What we need to consider now is that KM serves a new generation. C-gen requires that we assume a new  role within KM in order to create a more powerful “Ba” and secure value generation though mechanisms that are already part of their daily life. 

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