How Do We Share Our Knowledge?

Half Dome on Valentine's Day

Half Dome on Valentine's Day

I might be tempted to refer to myself as Lazarus as the past three weeks I’ve been buried well under the weather. Super Bowl Sunday was spent in bed as the body temperature seemed to be overheating but I felt like the air conditioner was on full blast. Sweating under the sheets, I couldn’t stay warm. I had a stomach virus for about a week that worked its way into an upper respiratory cough. When I should be peaking for Way Too Cool, I’ve just been trying not to miss any work and to get through a run with minimal stops. Finally feeling somewhat back to a normal state.

For Valentine’s Weekend, we treated ourselves to a trip to Yosemite and the “Tentwanhee Hotel” in Curry Village. Nicole, Dylan and I had never been to the park in the winter and we had a great time. We joined a walking tour on Sunday morning offered by the Ansel Adams Gallery and Nicole learned some new tips and tricks on how to set some of the thousands of options on her camera. Dylan already knew which of the giant rocks was Half Dome and could point to it and declare “Alf Ome”. I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: if you haven’t been to Yosemite then you need to plan a trip. You can see some of my pictures here.

One of my goals this year is to try new things and one of those new things is capturing different images. So the other night I borrowed Nicole’s camera and took some pictures at the Placer High School Basketball game. This was my second attempt at taking pictures at a Hillmen basketball game and I’m happy with some of the shots. I’ve posted them on the Auburn Journal website if you would like to take a look.

Now onto an area that I’m convinced needs to be overhauled: email. Maybe you are a little like me and a spend a lot of your day, and sometimes night, in emails. I find myself more and more frustrated with email and how we use it to share and exchange information. Sometimes a good part of my day is spent just trying to keep up with emails and answering questions.

As a direct method of communication, email does a fine job. However, sometimes that information should be shared in a more collaborative forum. Email is a very closed system in that information is only accessible to those on the email chain. Also, email can be very disruptive in that you need to read the email whether or not there is any value just to determine if the content is important. If the email is a keeper, then you might need to move it into a saved area so you can easily find it later.

So I’m searching for the ultimate collaboration tool. Google Wave recently launched and I looked at that the other night but was not won over. I’ve been using WordPress for over a year as a personal blogging tool but think it has benefits that can carry over into the work life.

Many times we are holding conversations in email that would be better suited for a more structured content management system. I mean we are inputting and outputting a lot of knowledge into our computers every day. Whatever type of work you are doing – it doesn’t have to be technology related – requires a certain level of knowledge. The more time you spend in that type of work, hopefully the more knowledge you are gaining. Where is this knowledge going? How are you sharing this knowledge? And even if you have nothing work related to write about, there’s all the other stuff in life that is worth capturing. I know I’ve lamented how much time we spend typing into computers and I’m not necessarily advocating more time but rather looking to replace one communication tool (email) with another.

I cringe at recommending blogging as the solution but I wonder if something like a blogging tool would be a better solution. A study published recently shows that blogging by teenagers and young adults has dropped in half in the last 3 years. People instead are using social networking sites to share information. But I think blogs still have many advantages over social networking sites. One of the biggest advantages is you can host your own blog using an engine like WordPress whereas most social networking sites have ultimate control of your information. Post a link to a blog on a social networking site and where do people comment? Do they comment on the link or post comments on the blog? You could have two different conversations going on, one on the link and another one on the blog. A major advantage to blogs is that they can be indexed and searched and can have categories and can be made private or public. Content can be easily added so the focus could be on the content and not the design and layout.

Would it work to have people search a blog for information before firing off a question in an email? The problem I find even with current online documentation now is that it is far easier for someone to send an email rather than search for an answer. Why do my own research if I can just ask you and you’ll tell me the answer? Sometimes I find the trick is waiting to send an immediate answer when that question hits the inbox and then about an hour later another message arrives in my inbox saying something like “Forget that last email from me. I figured it out.”

So I’m still looking for the right solution that can be used as a collaboration and knowledge sharing tool. Let me know your experience and what tools you are using.

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4 thoughts on “How Do We Share Our Knowledge?

  1. Great food for thought here Michael. Using WordPress as a coach is changing how I communicate with my athletes. I’m finding that when I do catch up with an athlete (on the phone or in person) we have a more rich conversation because they have read over a recent post (usually a topic on which athletes have asked me to write). The goal for me is to prioritize the most essential and relevant information that I feel will help all my athletes, such as nutritional periodization. By providing some background knowledge, the limited amount of time I have to speak with clients is optimized since we have some common language to build upon, making our time more productive. I can meet a lot of their needs with one fell blog-post swoop.

    And it is true, as we Google to find quick answers, we also sometimes treat email (people) the same way (like another search-engine), and not always because we don’t want to do the leg-work to find out an answer. Sometimes, we’re just so frantically busy that in our desperation–after Google has failed us–we’ll turn to the first “resource” we feel will provide that quick answer. This is not to say this is healthy practice. We should eventually come to the conclusion that we need to carve out the time to make a more respectable attempt to solve our problems. Then, when we ask for help, from the most appropriate source, our inquiry is more well received, and more thoughtfully responded to.

    When we stop and look around every once in a while (I find running is the perfect time) sometimes clever little ideas surface in our minds that hold great potential to make our lives a little less cluttered, more efficient, and yet maintain a high level of effectiveness. I’m always paying lip-service to working smarter than harder, and every once in a while I’m surprised that it’s working. But, it is my thinking that I need to communicate the specific changes I’m making, to my clients for example, so that they understand what I’m up to, which, in turn, makes the system smarter. In theory that is.

    We tend to move toward the path of least resistance. But most of us have figured out that doing the right thing is more difficult. And what’s more difficult is more time-consuming. And lives are so full of stuff these days. Note to self- A little more self-discipline will go a long way.

    Now, time to update my Facebook status. Hmmm. What should I write?

  2. Thanks for the feedback. I think you are a perfect example of how blogging can enhance your relationship with your athletes. Reading how you evolve as an athlete with training, diet and lifestyle plus maintaining a career demonstrates how goals can be achieved. And if nothing else, I think capturing our thoughts and writing about life gives us an opportunity to look back later and appreciate the process.

  3. Michael,

    As one of the guilty emailers, may I explain?

    It sometimes takes me a long time to formulate any email to you when I feel you are the only person who can offer advice. Sometimes, just by putting my thoughts down in the email helps me to solve my own issue. Sometimes, that happens only moments after hitting the Send button.

    I think that formulating the email and having to think it through again from the beginning and trying to communicate each step already taken, when I myself am so absorbed in the issue, helps solve the issue.

    If I never formulated the email, I may never have solved the issue. (I know this, and have plenty of emails in the Draft folder to prove it.)

    Speaking for myself, only when I have exhausted every avenue do I send an email to you, I don’t just send an email because it is the easy thing to do and I think I will get a quick answer. Au contraire, it is one of the hardest decisions I make.

    -Bonnie

  4. I think we are all guilty of answering our own questions but even that is a good example of if that process could be captured and shared, sometimes reading and following that process can trigger new ideas or better define how we arrived at our current location. The process of formulating our thoughts and being able to communicate and share that process, actually the tool we use not so much the process, is what needs to be improved. The questions and dialogue is what clarifies our thoughts and product. I just think we need a better way of asking those questions and having those dialogues so without any extra effort, we can capture the process and share it with others.

    So keep asking the questions and solving the issues.

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