The power of conversation
There are many ways to share information and knowledge but for most organisations this process is overwhelmingly document-centric. There are, however, an increasing number of knowledge transfer options available. This is the story of how one company developed a series of podcasts and used the power of conversation to mobilise its internal knowledge base.
Helen Clegg leads a knowledge team of four within a global unit of international consultancy firm A.T Kearney. At a NetIKX workshop she described the extraordinary success of the firm's podcast series - not just in enabling knowledge transfer but also delivering a number of additional, unexpected benefits.
Helen and a colleague decided to explore the business potential of podcasting five years ago after hearing a presentation at the SLA conference in Denver. On their return home they set about discovering what skills and technology would be involved. Internal technology support was secured, a title for the podcast series agreed, copyright-free music chosen, standard 'intros and outros' written and a consultant volunteered to appear on the first podcast. This first podcast, created with a zero budget, was recorded via a conference call and announced - with some trepidation - at a team meeting. The concept was taken up enthusiastically by colleagues.
Beyond internal communication
With the concept proving so popular with internal colleagues, the knowledge team decided to begin extending its audience. Having sought internal legal advice, the team decided to begin distributing the podcasts via iTunes. With this new, external audience, additional editorial guidelines were required so that client and business confidentiality were maintained. What was available for leveraging was the amount of knowledge residing in the heads of people at A.T. Kearney. Helen's team also started to include external speakers in the series. New podcasts were released every fortnight.
After a successful iTunes launch, the podcasts were also distributed via YouTube and on the corporate website. Each consultant who podcasts is encouraged to promote the podcast via social media and the marketing team retweets and posts on the business's Facebook page.
Audio content is more digestible and absorbable. In most cases the information discussed on the podcasts was already available in slide decks, procedure statements or white papers. However the conversational format of the podcasts, moderated by members of the knowledge team, allows context to be shared in ways impossible using the written word alone.
- For the consultants it's an opportunity to share expertise and raise professional profile
- The project raises the profile of the knowledge team - and of knowledge mobilisation
- Pockets of external expertise are uncovered and transferred
- The podcasts support marketing and recruitment activities and are frequently cited, for example, by new starters as a source of knowledge about the business
- The podcasts reflect the corporate image of being a forward thinking and innovative company
- The success of the podcasts led the company to invest in a high end 'virtual podcast studio'
- Enables and encourages closer internal collaboration e.g. between the knowledge and marketing teams
- The statistics for each podcast reveal trends of interest and engagement
- The knowledge team have learned and honed invaluable moderation skills
Although finding out exactly who is listening in is not so easy, the use of Google analytics shows how the podcasts easily exceed their current KPI of 1000 hits per month.
Can the mobilised knowledge of A.T. Kearney become an income stream in its own right? The team is now exploring whether the podcast content can be repurposed as an e-book.
Lessons learned along the way
- New ventures can take time - five years so far
- To innovate you have to accept failure is a possible outcome
- You don't always need big budgets to be innovative
- Lots of ways to maximise knowledge - find one to suit your organisation
The podcasts are available here.
Image courtesy of derrickkwa via Flickr.