Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Social media challenges for leaders

My experience working with many senior executives leading government departments, professional consultancies and banks tell me that as more and more communciation channels / social media emerge, the leaders face challenges on multilevel. First, they need to develop an awareness of what's new and figure out what it is. Then, they need to think strategically about the potential to introduce new communication channels in the organization context to add real value and achieve top line and bottom line outcomes. And once a decision is made to embrace these new channels, the implementation can be a challenge too for early adopters as you don't have examples to follow. New technologies open up new possibitilies and very often challenge existing leadership model, current business processes and resulting in greater organization change than one anticipate. Turning a concept from napkin paper to reality requires putting the righ team, having the strategic focus and persistence to get there. I know of many companies who are struggling to figure out how to use twitter-like or facebook-like applications within the enterprise setting. It is this part of innovation that excites me personally.
The leaders also face a number of dilemna when introducing new communication channels. Typical questions include: Should I open up more channels and encourage more conversation from all staff members versus should I focus on facilitating quality and purposeful conversation? Should I promote nice conversation to create a happy-clappy team cultue versus should I ritualize dissent, surface diverse voice, promote debate so that difficult and controversal ideas and topics emerge and can be dealt with earlier? How much can I (or should I) control and moderate the conversation? Bottomline, these new technologies are asking leaders to go back to the basic, and think deeper about what it means to have two-way genuine dialogue with your staff and with your clients.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Information Literacy in the Workplace Context

A friend who is passionate about "information literacy" in the education context recently asked me "Do you have any view on the impact of information literacy or is being addressed in the corporate/business world?"

My interest in information literacy started in mid-1990s when I was exploring my PhD research topic, eventually I specialize in knowledge management (or I prefer to call it knowledge sharing) and focus on helping workers within companies to share and use information effectively . His question made me think more about information literacy in the workplace context.

My response is yes, information literacy is very important and has high impact in the corporate/business world. Knowledge workers interact with information all the time. Information is exchange in business conversation as well. Information literacy can improve knowledge workers' work productivity. On a more strategic level, management team which invest in building a company's capability to share, organize and disseminate information drive innovation, expedite learning, avoid repeating mistakes can result in competitive advantage and reap tangible benefits.

However, the phrase "information literacy" which library and information professionals tend to use is disguised under many different names (e.g. understanding of information use policies/legal and compliance guidelines, awareness of information resources, research and information organizing skills, writing reports, visualizing data/findings, knowledge management, collaboration, marketing and business intelligence scanning, communication and presenation skills, and more recently social media awareness and understanding the implication of its use). I can add more to this list.... but you get what I mean. Some of these information literacy skills are required more in certain role than the others, but no matter what you do, they are required at different times.

How "information literacy" is being addressed in the workplace, I have not heard of any "information literacy" curriculum that companies run for staff , and I don't think it is the right approach either. Information literacy is so embedded in our day to day work that it cannot be separated as something different. The challenge for educators is: how can you prepare students with information literacy skills/mindset so that they can be effective in the workplace context (and in their day-to-day lives). Information literacy education really need to be embedded seamlessly in the whole education curriculum.

I wonder what do you think? I love to hear your views to refine my thinking.