More on Building a Culture of Content Part II

by john on January 6, 2003

The Culture of Content is an idea I am toying with by way of some writings on this weblog. It is an idea that is fermenting; not fully brewed, but as I write and read I get more comfortable with the concept. The concept is rooted in some discussions I have been having at work and the idea is beginning to take shape.

Culture refers to the culture of a corporation of knowledge workers. I don?t think it applies to a manufacturing setting, for example, but as my only real experience is with technology companies I could be wrong.

Content refers to the information that is residing in those workers’ heads that isn’t fully tapped. It’s the idea tossed about at the water-cooler. It’s information about a new project. It’s a person looking for hel It’s the details of a big win. Content is the life-force of an organization.

In More on Building a Culture of Content Part I I discussed the need for simple Content Management Software to lay a foundation for the Culture of Content. In Part II I look to the role of the weblog.

In his fantastic essay Stigmergy and the World-Wide Web, Joe Gregorio delves into the idea of the web as a natural system and show us the correlation between weblogs and the behavior of ants. Why? Because the stigmergic communication required to build an Ant Trail is akin to communication paths built up across weblogs on the web.

bq(quote). The weblog has got to be the single most inefficient mechanism for communication that has even been invented. Webloggers should be committed en masse. There’s only one problem: It works.

The premise is wrong but the conclusion is right. It works. Companies that are able to successfully channel this stigmergy throughout their organization with the purpose of sharing, learning, coaching and educating will have evolved their corporate culture into a Culture of Content, a culture driven by the sharing of information for the good of the individual, team and company.

The weblog network driving the Culture of Content is not a large smattering of isolated weblogs, rather it is a network of intertwined weblogs where communication between people and groups is initiated through technologies such as trackback or comment facilities. Notice I stress initiated. I am not proposing that all communication be done in this manner. At some point people will meet; they will talk on the phone; they will email. But they got together in the first place through the simple act of communication through a corporate weblog.

I have worked for technology companies as small as 8 employees, to one with 50, then 100, then 250 and now one with 1300 employees. When a company is small and the employees are in close proximity there is no need for a communication system beyond simply talking. Everyone knows what everyone is working on, if anyone needs help they can easily ask everyone and there is no simpler method than talking. The archiving is done in people’s heads and that is usually sufficient.

But as companies become bigger and more geographically dispersed the amount of redundant work being performed increases and the awareness of an employee’ role in an organization decreases. You become further disengaged with what is happening in the company. If the company is doing a good job articulating the top level vision you may still be connected to the top but you will not be at the grass-roots level across the company.

People want to be connected with others. They want to feel as though they belong to a grou This is the reason why online communities can be so successful – once someone feels associated with the group and feel that they belong they will stick through things thick and thin. That’s what we want in our employees and that’s what I think a system of sharing through weblogs can bring.

If you were to apply a cluster analysis on your company to the entire business world you would want to find that your company is as distinct a team as possible compared to other companies, but within your company you would want the members to be as close to each other as possible, having the same goal and purpose.

We can greatly improve our employees feeling of identity and belonging by enabling our employees to share information in a simple weblog, powered by the stigmergic power of a network of intertwined communication, resulting in employees knowing far more about the breadth of the organization than they possibly could otherwise.

The problem is lack of communication. The answer is simple communication. The answer is weblogs.

In Part III I’ll put on the contrarian’s hat and discuss why this idea can’t work.


Jr January 8, 2003 at 10:28 am

I enjoyed your article, but I disagree with your comment, “When a company is small and the employees are in close proximity there is no need for a communication system beyond simply talking.”

I believe blogs or klogs are useful for companies no matter the size. What about turnover? When a new employee starts, direct the person to the blog. When the information is only in a person’s head, it’s lost when the employee leaves.

In chapter 8 of the book “We Blog”, there’s a section about Pyra’s internal blog used in their early days when there were only two employees.

From the chapter located here:

“We sat less than ten feet apart, but we needed a solution that wouldn’t be disruptive. We wanted to be able to share information without interrupting each other’s work, so we needed something asynchronous…”

What if the employees of a small company are dispersed geographically? Having information stored in e-mail inboxes or as hardcopy in file cabinets is cumbersome to search on by others and is difficult to access by new employees. One employee or one million, blog and blog often.

Small companies work on projects. Let’s say an eight month project is blogged during development. A year or two later, people, possibly new employees, can access this information to see what went right and what went wrong. They learn. The blog entry today becomes a valuable nugget of information tomorrow.

Sidenote: Here’s an old article about Pyra’s early intentions:

john January 8, 2003 at 4:13 pm

I agree – I was too harsh with “no” I think “less” was more appropriate. Hell a personal blog has already shown me that as an audience of ONE it can offer a lot in terms of a knowledge repository.

I have WeBlog being sent to my house as I type – I saw a day or two ago that it had a section on business blogging and I’m anxioujs to read beyond what you have shown here.


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