It seems a little funny that, after commenting to rhugenwrites about emails I chose an article discussing just that: emails for communication. Pillet and Carillo even mention information overload in connection with emails. I found it most interesting that they referenced a trail which “revealed that when emails were completely turned-off, workers focused longer on their tasks, multitasked less, and experienced lower stress (Mark, Voida, Cardello, 2012)”. Mostly because I can absolutely believe it. They argue for alternative methods and discuss the development of habits. While I admit the math isn’t my thing (all those numbers!), I like the emphasis on how the users interact with the knowledge sharing tools (“habits”). They also call out that managers need to help users so they don’t revert back to old habits. I think this is also a good message because users will fear change – particularly if that change makes their job sound obsolete or unnecessary.
Goggins and Mascaro title their article “Context Matters”, which cannot be more appropriate to these studies. While Pillet and Carillo‘s studies were informative, they may not be relevant to the types of communities Goggins and Mascaro are describing. Rural communities are more isolated, and face different challenges. They point out that the virtual networks may go down more often, and may take longer to get back up. My workplace isn’t exactly rural, but even I’ve found that sometimes it’s easier to walk to someone’s desk and try to figure something out together than to play the email game. As Goggins and Mascaro are pointing out, there are multiple layers to “distance”, and not all of them are physical.
Hemsley and Mason show a different kind of information: “viral” information. This kind of information is an email a user would stop to read because the content is something they find interesting. Not only do they read it, but they share it – and that knowledge is shared at an extremely rapid rate. Don’t we wish all good knowledge would go viral! That when we found a solution to a problem everyone would want to share and celebrate! Alas, that is not the case. Context is just as important to Hemsley and Mason as it is to Goggins and Mascaro, because users make information “viral” based on interest. If the information isn’t interesting, it isn’t likely to be spread.
There’s another reason information may not go “viral”, as well. Trkman and Desouza point out that there are risks in knowledge sharing. While trust and reputation are important to knowledge sharing, organizations also know that sharing information can have a negative effect on these (and other) factors. Organizations need to understand their employees and how it impacts how coworkers share knowledge and interact. Creating a “culture of fear” (as Trkman and Desouza reference it) where users are afraid to share knowledge because what they know might be confidential or they are afraid of the consequences is detrimental to knowledge sharing. It is always best to be clear about what is confidential and what is not, and to understand the difference between deliberate and non-deliberate knowledge sharing impacts.
Goggins, S. P., & Mascaro, C. (2013). Context matters: The experience of physical, informational, and cultural distance in a rural IT firm. The Information Society, 29, 113-127. doi:10.1080/01972243.2012.758212
Hemsley, J., & Mason, R. M. (2013). Knowledge and knowledge management in the social media age. Journal of Organizatational Computing and Electronic Commerce, 23(1), 138-167. doi:10.1080/10919392.2013.748614
Pillet, J. C., & Carillo, K. D. A. (2016). Email-free collaboration: An exploratory study on the formation of new work habits among knowledge workers. International Journal of Information Management, 36(1), 113–125. doi:10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2015.11.001
Trkman, P., & Desouza, K.C. (2012). Knowledge risks in organizational networks: An exploratory framework. Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 21(1), 1-17. doi:10.1016/j.jsis.2011.11.001.