In any product category, roughly 10% of the consumers account for more than 50% of the profits. These super-consumers, as we call them, are the hot dog buyers who eat five pounds of hot dogs a month, wolfing down as many as 4 per sitting(Yoon, E). They are not always a noticeable group unless you really dig in and start investigating. There are many products that have made it through time due to a small, but powerful, consumer group. They find more meaning and benefits than the average consumer and account for at least three times as much growth as other consumers.
In KM, we don’t speak of super consumers. Instead we have what you may call, Super contributors. They account for more than 50% of contributions. In this group we´ll find people who like to teach, contribute with forums, blogs, wikis, etc. Somehow you know they are available and open to any initiative that comes up.
Sometimes we travel around the block too many times pondering on the same question: what can I do the steer culture and make everyone become part of KM? For larger organizations the symptom it is not always clear: if your organization´s size is about 30,000 and only 10% account for contributions, this means that 3000 people are actively participating. That’s a lot of knowledge being shared. For a small sized KM team it definitely can be overwhelming but it´s still only 10%. So it’s important to get the picture clear.
As for shaping culture, it’s not something that can be done in a recipe-like manner. You need to carry out a detective like work in order to understand where you need to focus efforts. People not sharing knowledge is not always a culture issue: there may be problems at a process level or maybe people just don’t know how to get their knowledge across. I have seen excellent initiatives but little communication and training.
Besides, the truth is that you can’t change everyone. You can apply control mechanisms such as linking KM to personal objectives and performance management but it won’t generate the required “feeling”. I have found out that it´s much easier to work with the super contributors. You need to spend some time looking for them and when you do find them, make sure they become your ally. Have a look at the discussion forums. See who´s picked up the most teaching hours. Identify who´s asking the most questions.
Super contributors have a special gene embedded in their DNA. They are most likely to participate in events as speakers or simply answer questions in forums without expecting anything in return. They simply enjoy doing it.
So work with them. Strengthen their knowledge sharing competencies and recognize their efforts in a different way. I remember there was one person in particular that had always longed for a superman action figure when he was a child. He never got one.
For Christmas we prepared a special video in to order to recognize some of the KM efforts and when the video was presented at the head office, we went up to him and gave him his childhood dream. A superman action figure!
Now I’m not saying that every organization should adopt that practice: my message to you is: think different! Think out the box in order to find the correct (and balanced) mechanisms in order to convey gratitude.
In other cases, we provided people with specialized coaching, helped them develop their knowledge sharing competencies so that they could become better professionals. That’s more powerful. I remember that one of our super contributors was a very shy engineer. You would find him hidden behind his desk and he would hardly speak to anyone.
Two years later he became our best trainer. Not only did he share his knowledge through courses but also through specialized workshops, articles and forums. Today he is also teaching at one of the most prestigious universities in the country. I can truly say that I am so happy to have been part of his personal and professional development.
I will share more of stories regarding super contributors later-meanwhile what are you waiting for in order to start identifying your super contributors???
© Jose Carlos Tenorio Favero