Finally got around to writing up the sessions I attended at BIALL! Will be publishing these over the next few days…
For the first plenary session of the conference, David Gurteen talked about how “web 2.0″/social networking tools can benefit knowledge management and facilitate knowledge sharing. David’s slides are available on Slideshare. He explained that within KM, the focus has shifted away from attempting to capture knowledge, and towards enabling and encouraging knowledge to be shared. He believes that social networking tools can be a vital part of this process, but noted that we shouldn’t rely on networked communication – face-to-face meetings and conversations are the most effective KM tools.
It was noted that law firms have been slow to adopt social networking tools. David put this down to worries about security and the potential for time-wasting, and suggested that to “sell” these tools to lawyers you need to drop the “social” tag – talk about knowledge sharing and communication, not social networking. In the Q&A, some of the delegates raised more solid concerns about using social tools in law firms – e.g. the hourly billing model means that lawyers will not be willing to spend time on “knowledge sharing” activities. There was also the feeling that lawyers generally don’t want to share their knowledge – knowledge is their capital. I didn’t think David really addressed these points – he said that he thought the hourly billing model was on its way out (it might well be, but not soon!), and that lawyers just needed to be encouraged about the benefits of sharing knowledge. He did point out that librarians and lawyers tend to be on opposite ends of the spectrum – librarians are usually keen to work together and share ideas, and lawyers tend to be opposed to the idea. David’s suggestion was to target people in the middle – you won’t convince people to share their knowledge if they’re determined to guard it, but you may have more success with people, particularly at the start of their careers, who just aren’t sure whether sharing knowledge is a good idea or not.
Some interesting ideas in David’s talk – and nice use of knowledge-related quotations to spark ideas – but I do find these types of presentations hard to link back to my day-to-day work. The firm I work for is pretty anti-web 2.0, even for a law firm – they’re very quick to block any kind of non-work-related sites, as well as anything related to file storage (so Slideshare and Google Docs are out, for example) – so while I agree that web 2.0 could be incredibly useful for knowledge sharing, I don’t think it’s something I could make happen in my own workplace!