Principles of a Knowledge Leveraging Community Infrastructure
Community implies a common interest and it is the pursuit of
this common interest that the knowledge-leveraging infrastructure
must support. Whether the common interest is to deal with a situation,
avoid something, maintain something, or accomplish something,
the common interest serves as the basis for the purpose and vision
of the community.
A community, however, does not exist in isolation and is part
of a larger body or system. The system is made up of the community
and those with whom the community interacts. These participants
in the system may be temporary or ongoing and are defined as follows:
- Community Members - Those individuals with a common
interest who will benefit from employing the leveragable body
of knowledge. It is expected that the community members are not
entirely capable of creating the leveragable body of knowledge
on their own.
- External Contributors - Those individuals outside
the community who possess relevant knowledge that the could be
leveraged by community members, and as such must become part
of the leveragable body of knowledge. Community members must
interact with external contributors to clarify and crystallize
their purpose, vision, and values. The needs of the community
members guide the external contributors.
- Facilitators - It is expected that neither the community
members nor the external contributors have the capacity to manage
the leveragable body of knowledge. Thus, facilitators are responsible
for managing the interactions which create and maintain the leveragable
body of knowledge and for maintaining the infrastructure interactions.
The following diagram depicts the flow of interactions within
the system. Note that there are no half-loops; every participant
is able to interact with every other participant. The participants
interact with each other and with the leveragable body of knowledge
through various forms of input, and receive feedback produced
by each of the other participants and by the system.
The extent to which knowledge leveraging can occur within a
community is dependent on the nature of the interactions within
the community and within the larger system. Certain principles
must be at the core of these interactions. These principles relate
to the following aspects of knowledge leveraging.
- Geographic Distribution - Participants in the system
are likely to be geographically distributed. This means face
to face interactions will be difficult for most. The system must
support multiple modes of interaction to accommodate the preferences
and learning styles of the individual members.
- Purpose, Mission, Vision and Values - The community
is not likely to begin with a clear and precise shared definition
of its purpose, mission, vision, and values. You might say that
the community knows only that it needs, but lacks clarity as
to just what it needs. The infrastructure must facilitate interactions
between members of the community, external contributors, and
facilitators to develop a clear and consistent understanding
of the purpose, mission, vision, and values of the community.
- Changing Participants - Community members, external
contributors, and facilitators will change over time. New participants
will enter and existing participants will depart. To help new
participants ramp up to the current state of community evolution,
the infrastructure must provide concise documentation of the
agreements and decisions the community has made to date. This
will allow new participants to ramp up without impeding seasoned
participants from continuing to move forward. The intent is to
avoid a continuous rehashing of past decisions because of issues
raised by new participants who are unfamiliar with the decisions
of the past and simply don't know what they don't know.
- Purpose Challenge - Once the community has established
and documented its purpose, mission, vision and values, there
must be a mechanism for challenging the established doctrines
on a recurring basis. For the doctrine to remain valid and avoid
becoming dogma, it must evolve over time.
- Personal Development - In order to support the evolution
of the body of knowledge, individual members of the community
must personally develop. The infrastructure must enable individuals
to assess their capacity to contribute to the effort and provide
a basis for personal development. This will enable individuals
to develop their capacity to support the evolution of the leveragable
body of knowledge.
- Roles and Responsibilities - Facilitated interaction
between community members, facilitators, and external contributors
serves as the basis for defining the roles and contributions
of the facilitators and external contributors. These definitions
also need to be documented for future reference by all participants
in the infrastructure.
- Feedback - Community members interacting with the
leveragable body of knowledge must be able to provide feedback
in several critical areas and the feedback mechanism must be
supported by the infrastructure.
- Content - Feedback on accessed knowledge must be submitted
for review to the appropriate individuals to act on the feedback.
This is a basis for continuing evolution of the leveragable body
- Participants - The value of facilitator and external
contributor contributions must be evaluated by community members
on an ongoing basis.
- Subgroups - Because it is expected that there will
be subgroups of community members working in a project capacity,
the community needs to provide feedback to the subgroup regarding
the value of its contribution. Subgroups must evaluate their
own perceptions of the value of their contributions as well as
the level of contribution by their participating members.
- Return on Investment - Facilitators and external contributors
must be able to continually reflect on their perceived return
on investment from supporting the infrastructure. This provides
a basis for determining whether alterations are appropriate to
adjust the return on investment and the facilitators' and external
contributors' interactions with the system.
- Support Facilities - Subgroups working together must
have multiple support facilities to enhance their interactions.
At present there is no known single technology that will accommodate
the myriad of interactions required. Interactions of subgroups
essentially represent a microcosm of the interactions of the
whole system. The infrastructure must facilitate the establishment
of subgroup objectives, facilitate their ongoing interactions,
provide a repository for what the subgroup produces, enable the
group to evaluate itself, and allow the community to evaluate
the contributions of the subgroup.
As stated, no single technology exists which will facilitate
all the interactions required for a community to develop, maintain
and evolve a leveragable body of knowledge. It is believed that
there are sufficient technology components available, which, when
integrated, will produce an infrastructure that will support the
community in the manner described.
Because there are multiple types of interactions with differing
intended contributions, it seems best to describe the technologies
from the perspective of the interactions they must support. In
this manner it should then be possible to evaluate a technology
based on its capacity to enable and deliver value to the interaction
it is supposed to support.
The following provides some perspectives on particular technology
components and their role in the infrastructure.
The Leveragable Body of Knowledge
The leveragable body of knowledge is all the knowledge available
to the community via all participants in the system. The repository
for "captured" knowledge, the knowledgebase, must provide
feedback in support of its own continued development and evolution.
It must also support the following types of interactions from
each of the participants within the system.
- Participant Feedback - All participants interacting
with the body of knowledge must be able to provide feedback regarding
the perceived quality of the knowledge they access. The most
important dimensions are perceived to be:
- Findability - Was the user able to find what they
were looking for in a timely manner? If what they were looking
for didn't exist within the body of knowledge, it forms the basis
for additional content development. If what the user was looking
for existed, did they find it in an acceptable time-frame?
- Usability - The extent to which the knowledge was
able to be used to serve the user's intent.
- Relevance - Was the knowledge found appropriate to what the
user was looking for?
- Accuracy - Was the knowledge found correct and did it solve
- Precision - Was the knowledge found of the appropriate level
of detail? Was it too general? Was it too specific? Was it just
- Content Evolution - All participants interacting with
the leveragable body of knowledge must be able to provide foundations
for additional content. This may be in terms of:
- Questions - Questions for which appropriate answers
were not found in the knowledgebase should serve as the basis
for the development of additional content by the facilitators
and external contributors.
- Perspectives - As members of the community gain insights
from employing facets of the leveragable body of knowledge, the
infrastructure must provide a way for this to form the basis
of new content for others to access.
- Contributions - As members develop new learning, it
must serve as the basis for new contributions to the knowledgebase.
- System Feedback - All participants must receive feedback
from the body of knowledge on an ongoing basis. This feedback
serves as a basis for corrections to the modes and methods of
interaction as well as for the continued development of the content
of the body of knowledge. Some of the most relevant components
of this feedback are:
- Value - Feedback must be established regarding the
perceived quality or value of the body of knowledge. This feedback
is based on some combination of the number and frequency of community
member interactions with the body of knowledge, in conjunction
with the feedback that participants have provided on the knowledge
accessed. This feedback is considered valuable to community members,
facilitators, and external contributors.
- Knowledge Quality - Based on the comments submitted
by community members, feedback should be provided to the facilitators
and external contributors as to the perceived quality of the
content they have developed. This feedback also provides the
basis for developing new content and revising existing content.
Note that from a composite sense, feedback serves to establish
the community members' perceived value of the interactions by
the facilitators and external contributors. The infrastructure
should also support the community members' qualitative evaluation
of facilitators and external contributors via blind survey. The
idea is to balance direct and indirect feedback about the value
Facilitating Distributed Interaction
It is assumed that, for the most part, the members of the community
will be distributed worldwide. There may be small, co-located
groups of community members, yet this will be the exception rather
than the rule. In addition to being geographically distributed,
it is expected that individual community members will have different
preferences as to when and how to interact. Therefore, it is essential
that the infrastructure facilitate the interaction dynamics in
such a way as to accommodate the time and space differentials
of community members.
theWay of Systems
- Personal Profiling - We seem to interact in a more
comfortable fashion with individuals we think we know. We develop
this sense of knowing from various interactions with individuals.
The system must provide a profiling facility to develop a reference
background for the participants. This should include personality
types (Myers-Briggs, Adizes PAEI, Human Dynamics MEP, etc.),
background, desires and aspirations, and special interests. Profiles
must be developed online and be readily accessible to anyone
that chooses to use them as a basis for better understanding
those they are interacting with.
- Developmental Profiles - The foundation of the system
is the common interest of the community, yet this cannot be pursued
at the expense of individual aspirations. There is nothing more
important to each of us than what we personally desire to accomplish.
Therefore, the system must support individual development profiling
in a manner which integrates individual development and community
Copyright © 2004 Gene Bellinger