Tacit Knowledge and the Wisdom of Crowds

Store Associates in specialty retailers are sometimes challenged in finding quick answers to customer questions about products. They need a quick way to find information. Search capabilities that can be accessed easily using kiosks and mobile devices can make the store associate far more effective. In addition to the documented information there could be a lot of tacit information within the organization that the employee (and hence the customer) could benefit from.

By definition, tacit knowledge is knowledge that people carry in their minds and is, therefore, difficult to access. Tacit knowledge has been found to be a crucial input to the innovation process. An organizations ability to innovate depends on its level of tacit knowledge of how to innovate. Specialized professionals acquire formal knowledge during their education, but to be effective they must acquire tacit knowledge and this is done through some sort of apprenticeship or internship. Collaboration with people is one of the ways to acquire tacit knowledge and collaboration tools can play a very important role. The tools should not only allow you to find relevant people based on their knowledge of specific areas or topics but also be able to connect you with them in a seamless manner. People engage in more effective tacit interactions when organizational structures do not get in the way and when they have the tools to make better decisions and communicate quickly and easily. To encourage more interaction, innovation, and collaboration, organizations need to become more transparent and break down the barriers to effective interactions.

A knowledge management portal based around Microsoft MOSS 2007 suite of products is the easiest way to elevate the importance of people and collaboration over hierarchical structures. People search capabilities in MOSS 2007 allow users to find people not only by department or job title but also by expertise, social distance, and common interests. The blog/wiki capabilities in Sharepoint allow organizations to capture and share some of the tacit knowledge.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 helps your organization get more done by providing a platform for sharing information and working together in teams, communities and people-driven processes. Office SharePoint Server is an important part of the overall Microsoft collaboration vision and integrates with other collaborative products to offer a comprehensive infrastructure for working with others.

Empower Teams Through Collaborative Workspaces

Microsoft delivers a best-of-breed collaborative infrastructure that gives end users the tools to easily create their own workspaces and share assets across teams, departments, and organizations while maintaining IT control.

Connect Organizations Through Portals

Microsoft will help bring the full insight and data of the organization to the right people at the right time by making it easy to connect people with line-of-business data, experts, and business processes across the organization.

Enable Communities with Social Computing Tools

Microsoft gives organizations the tools to deliver a broad set of social computing capabilities within their existing workspace and portal infrastructure, so end users can more easily harness the collective intelligence of the organization.

Reduce Cost and Complexity for IT by Using an Integrated Infrastructure, Existing Investments, and an Extensible Architectural Platform

The Microsoft collaboration infrastructure leverages existing investments, is extensible, and interoperates with other systems, so organizations can maintain a lower cost of ownership and more easily meet business demands by building a single infrastructure.

Microblogging tools and Social Networking tools also are great way to tap into the "Wisdom of Crowds". The concept of the "Wisdom of Crowds" is a fundamental building block of a lot of the Web 2.0 services. Many sites like Digg and Wikipedia rely on the concept of crowds being wise. The "Wisdom of Crowds" can help make decisions about which movie to watch, books to read, places to holiday in and for the Retail environment, it helps shoppers make decisions on which product to buy. Tools like Twitter can also help people pose a question to their network (or to anyone who cares to respond) and tap into tacit knowledge.

Interesting White Paper:

Office SharePoint 2007 Document: How to Get the Most Value from Social Computing for Business with Microsoft