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3 Ways Social Networks Support Knowledge Management in Government


Thu Jul 21 2016

3 Ways Social Networks Support Knowledge Management in Government

While much of the federal government lags behind, some agencies are pioneers in the internal use of social media tools.  What lessons and effective practices do they have to offer other agencies? The Social Intranet: Insights on Managing and Sharing Knowledge Internally, a new report from the IBM Center for the Business of Government looks at three ways internal social networks can support knowledge management in government.

Creating Organizational Knowledge

Government tends to codify organizational knowledge in handbooks, and knowledge reuse has to follow hierarchical standard operating procedures. Free-floating and informal knowledge-sharing activities outside formal means of knowledge sharing, such as cables and memos, are rarely supported through technology, especially in agencies that have to facilitate the transfer of highly confidential information. This leads to restrictive norms and procedures for information transport. As a result, the transfer of knowledge is extremely limited. 


The social intranet provides opportunities to internalize, but also externalize, knowledge by combining information sources from inside the organization across organizational boundaries and between organizational units.

Socializing Organizational Knowledge

Organizational knowledge needs to be available for two major purposes: 

  1. ad-hoc decision making during crisis situations

  2. supporting long-term policy-making activities. 

The multitudes of knowledge hubs through which informal and formal information exchanges happen across the social intranet create fluid discussions. Government organizations need mechanisms to make knowledge "sticky," that is, to identify important knowledge pieces that decision makers and knowledge experts should pay attention to.

Using Technology to Share Knowledge

Social intranets support connections among employees, as well as their knowledge, skills, and internal reputation. Identifying these attributes online is seen as a core way to locate and connect expertise and experience. Traditional HR departments cannot deal with the complexity of this task, but in-house social-­networking sites now support these activities. 

Bottom line: When government agencies establish and cultivate internal social networks, both employees and the organization as a whole will reap the rewards. 


For more insight, check out the complete article, “Managing Government Knowledge on the Social Intranet,” in the July 2016 issue of The Public Manager.

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