Answering the question of, how do organizations gain value from social media, particularly in situations where they have not been successful with knowledge management rests in a new view of collaboration — mass collaboration.

Mass collaboration consists of three things: social media, a compelling purpose and a focus on forming communities

•Social media technology provides the conduit and means for people to share their knowledge, insight and experience on their terms. It also provides a way for me to see and evaluate that knowledge based on the judgment of others. That is important but it is only a part.

•Purpose is the reason why people participate their ideas, experience and knowledge. They participate personally in social media because the value and identify with the purpose. They do so because they want to, rather than being told to as part of their job.

•Communities are self-forming in social media. Communities in knowledge management are often assigned by job classification or ‘encouraged’ based on work duties. Participation becomes prescribed creating the type of ‘mandatory fun’ that is the butt of Dilbert cartoons and TV sit coms. Knowledge management assigns communities because it sees knowledge as a hierarchy. Social media allows them to emerge as a property of the purpose and the participation using the tools. This lack of structure creates the space for active and innovative communities.

Making these factors work and create mass collaboration involves more than building technology and telling people to participate. It involves a range of vision, strategy and management actions

You can read this quote in context in the Gartner blog by Mark P. McDonald at Social Media Versus Knowledge Management.

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