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Making internal collaboration work: An interview with Don Tapscott

Here is a brief excerpt from the transcript of an interview of Don Tapscott with McKinsey’s Rik Kirkland in September 2012. Tapscott is an an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto as well as an author and strategist who, during his conversation with Kirkland, describes why effective knowledge management within enterprises requires replacing e-mail with social media.

To read the transcript and watch a video of the conversation, please click here.

Source: Organization Practice

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How do we get beyond e-mail to these new social platforms that include an industrial-strength social network? Not through Facebook, because that’s not the right tool. But there are tools now: wikis, blogs, microblogging, ideation tools, jams, next-generation project management, what I call collaborative decision management. These are social tools for decision making. These are the new operating systems for the 21st-century enterprise in the sense that these are the platforms upon which talent—you can think of talent as the app—works, and performs, and creates capability.

But we’ve approached this wrong over the years. Take something like knowledge management. Knowledge management has failed. We had this view that knowledge is a finite asset, it’s inside the boundaries of companies, and you manage it by containerizing it.

So, if we can get all of Jessica’s knowledge into this container, or computer system, then when she leaves the company we’ll still have Jessica, or we can get to Jessica in this container. And this was, of course, illusory, because knowledge is an infinite resource. The most important knowledge is not inside the boundaries of a company. You don’t achieve it through containerization, you achieve it through collaboration.

So, there’s a big change that’s underway right now in rethinking knowledge management. It’s really moving toward what I would call content collaboration, as opposed to trying to stick knowledge into a box where we can access it. E-mail is sort of like what Mark Twain said about the weather. Everybody’s talking about it, and nobody’s doing anything about it. We have to get rid of e-mail.

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To read the transcript and watch a video of the conversation, please click here.

For more on Tapscott, see his new book (with Anthony D. Williams), Radical Openness: Four Principles for Unthinkable Success (TED Books, January 2013), and view his June 2012 TED Talk, “Four principles for the open world.”

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