Knowledge has been the most valuable human asset. Ways of storing and distributing knowledge have evolved from cave drawings to wide space of the Internet.
Networking has been gaining momentum in business ever since: individuals who share common and individual knowledge group in order to solve the problems which they encounter with. In modern days the Internet has, within knowledge networks, enabled unlimited storage space for content consisting of human resource assets and subject matter expertise for business process or problem solving.
There is a huge variety of networks in our working and social lives such as:
- a company’s internal network for colleagues in a project team;
- a specialist network based on a technical or professional domain;
- an e-community of organizations collaborating on a lobby agenda;
- social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace or to keep in touch with friends and family;
- professional networking sites such as LinkedIn and Xing.
These are social networks supported by technology and they come in all shapes and sizes, and can be: internal or cross-organizational, co-located or distributed, spontaneous or deliberate, broad or narrow in their topic, informal or structured with a few members within a team or millions of users. The horizontal and/or vertical flow of knowledge focused on achieving results is the thing they all have in common.
In order not to get lost in wilderness of the Internet and networking before joining professional network or setting up a knowledge network in a company, it is important to consider goals which need to be achieved. The aims of networking should be personal business and future development.
Networking emerges on mutual interest. According to the research on designing effective knowledge networks, support of individual members is the most common goal of the corporate knowledge networks. Members gain access to organization data base but also have a chance to collaborate more effectively within the organization using technology tools such as: chats, wikis, or videoconferencing. These enable, for example, coaching regardless the distance: within Women’s World Banking network, a global nonprofit focused on providing low-income women with access to financial resources and tools, two microfinance leaders from Jordan and from Uganda have peer-coached each other with daily check-ins using video conferencing since they did not speak the same language.
Personal and professional development does not always happen within a single institution or field. To achieve his or her full potential, an individual gains new perspectives through professional associations, alumni groups, clubs, and personal interest communities. The largest professional network LinkedIn with as many as 170 million users provides everyone with contacts who come forth with referrals, information, and, often, developmental support.
When networking, keep in mind that personal network has a real value only if its potential is used to transfer knowledge among its members.
For business or any work process to run smoothly, there needs to be coordination and cooperation. Knowledge networks have proved as just the right tool for this task.
Coordination within the company is not easy to achieve whether it is a small business or a multinational company. The network enables synchronization of existing knowledge activities through the organization structures, incentives and norms with the task which is to be fulfilled. For example, ConocoPhillips’ networks, focused on efficient and effective exploration and production of oil and natural gas arranged a new technique for underwater tank inspections in the North Sea and its Australian operation, maintaining the same procedure across the different continents.
Knowledge networking is a social activity. Communities need to work together for knowledge to flow. Cooperation is achieved by providing various means of participation. Networks provide technologies for participation of:
- individuals (web-based video, instant messaging tools, data conferencing)
- groups (bulletin boards, threaded discussions, electronic rooms, digital workplaces)
- enterprise participation (communicating and building relationships with employees, customers, consumers, suppliers, investors, strategic partners and the general public)
Social knowledge networks, once established, have lead to increased productivity and improve the retention and preservation of knowledge.
They also promote further learning and innovation since the knowledge network commissions, accumulates and distributes knowledge for its members’ consumption, or as a general public good.
The network which is set needs to be constantly upgraded with the solutions maintained. Closed discussion items are made into enterprise-wide wiki which can be searchable from searchable from multiple network platforms or shared practices and artifacts which proved effective can be published outside the community for public consumption.
Building a professional knowledge network is a key to success. However, its purpose should be goal oriented. These goals are oriented toward personal, business and future development. Knowledge networking is demand driven and releases potential. It enables knowledge to be reused at scale and to create new knowledge (innovation).