I was in a meeting earlier in the month with Julian Carver, head of strategy consulting firm Seradigm here in Christchurch New Zealand. The focus of the meeting was on embracing high performance networks and collaboration technology to enhance organizational performance, and the topic swung around to the use of expertise databases as a way of finding expertise within your organization or extended network. I started outlining my ideas from Pillar 7 of the Seven Pillars framework, about the difference between declared and deduced expertise. In essence, in declared expertise, people say what they consider themselves to be expert in, and in deduced expertise, people are recognized for their expertise based on their actions in respect to knowledge within a social setting.
And then Julian came out with an idea that I thought was just brilliant. He said that the key problem with expertise databases—either declared or deduced—was getting the people in the organization to discover who was an expert in certain topics, and that this should not be a highly-scripted idea. In support of this need for serendipity in expert identification, Julian suggested that whenever you were having a video call from your desktop with other people, that the system should use a CNN-style rolling ticker along the bottom of the video window to highlight that other person’s areas of interest and expertise. If they write a blog, it should list some of their recent blog postings. If they are going to a conference in the couple of months, it should note that.
So taking Julian’s core insight and extending it, we can encourage serendipity in expert identification in a couple of other ways too:
- Whenever you look up someone’s name in the corporate directory, you should be presented with a “Did you know …?” dialog screen, much like we get with new software.
- When you get an email from someone and hover over their name, a “Did you know …?” prompt should display on a tool-tip style pop-up, again outlining something that they’ve recently written. Or if your organization is using a system like GroupSwim (whereby expertise is gifted to others based on the reactions of colleagues to what someone knows), one or two of their expertise tags could be displayed.
Such an approach would get over the need to intentionally search for expertise, and would start to create a broad base of awareness of which people were experts in which fields. By sharing expertise information in this serendipitous way, what was known about the organization and its key players would start to become generalized knowledge, and starting points for conversations would be created.
How do you share expertise information at your place of work?