How to get people more willing to ask for help in a public forum #CoP #motivation #trust


Tom <tman9999@...>
 

Someone posted this up on a LinkedIn discussion board and I thought it was an interesting question. Unfortunately on that board only one person responded. I'm hoping this group will be a bit more vocal and interested in sharing their answers. Thanks!
-Tom Short


Stan Garfield
 
Edited

>What is your top priority or focus this year?

My priority is to try to get people to be more willing to ask questions in a threaded discussion board.  Communities suchas SIKM Leaders have members who can answer almost any question on knowledge management and related topics.  Often when I suggest to people with questions that they post them to this discussion board, they are reluctant to do so.

Nancy Dixon wrote an article called "Does Your Organization Have An Asking Problem?" and I often think of this title when I encounter those who won't ask for help in a public forum.  There are at least three variations of this problem:

  1. People will ask one or two trusted colleagues, but will not post to a more public forum.
  2. People will ask an internal group, but will not post to an external forum.
  3. People will send an email to an individual or small set of people whom they regard as experts, but will not post to a discussion board.

In the spirit of practicing what I preach, does anyone have any tips, proven practices, or other insights on how to help people to become more willing to ask for help in a public forum?

Regards,
Stan


Barbara G. Saidel <barbara@...>
 

Stan, no one wants to look like they don’t know something that at some level, they wish they knew.  IF the questioner’s post could be anonymous, I bet more people would post questions both internally and externally.

Barbara

 

From: sikmleaders@... [mailto:sikmleaders@...] On Behalf Of StanGarfield
Sent: Thursday, March 25, 2010 4:24 PM
To: sikmleaders@...
Subject: [sikmleaders] Re: Corporate KM Leaders, CKOs: What is your top priority or focus this year?

 

 

>What is your top priority or focus this year?

My priority is to try to get people to be more willing to ask questions in a threaded discussion board.  Communities suchas SIKM Leaders have members who can answer almost any question on knowledge management and related topics.  Often when I suggest to people with questions that they post them to this discussion board, they are reluctant to do so.

Nancy Dixon wrote an article called "Does Your Organization Have An Asking Problem?" and I often think of this title when I encounter those who won't ask for help in a public forum.  There are at least three variations of this problem:

  1. People will ask one or two trusted colleagues, but will not post to a more public forum.
  2. People will ask an internal group, but will not post to an external forum.
  3. People will send an email to an individual or small set of people whom they regard as experts, but will not post to a discussion board.

In the spirit of practicing what I preach, does anyone have any tips, proven practices, or other insights on how to help people to become more willing to ask for help in a public forum?

Regards,
sTAN


jason.swan@...
 

Not sure if I can offer a solution, but I can offer insight into why I would post, or hesitate to post.  In my case, it doesn’t matter much to me whether the forum is public or private.  That has been one of the interesting phenomena of social networking over the last decade…  people becoming more willing to communicate and reach out to others virtually, when they might not be inclined to do so in a face-to-face manner.  Sort of a shift of inhibitions, I guess.  Anyway, I don’t worry about how others might perceive my question, whether I look weak or ignorant.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever given a person a second thought, in regards to their competence, if he/she posted a question to a forum I frequent.  So, by extension, I guess I don’t expect that behavior from others.  Perhaps I’m naive…

 

I am active in three or four forums.  I have visited and registered with many forums, but I regularly go back to those three or four for a few of reasons.  First, when I do venture to ask a question, I get multiple responses.  Occasionally, I get personal responses (via PM or email).  The willingness of forum members to respond to my query has a large impact on my decision to post again.  So much so, that when I find a new forum, I often look at how many posts go unanswered, or have only a single answer in the archives.  If it isn’t active, then I don’t bother too much with it.

 

The second reason I am active in those communities is because there are good, accessible archives for searching information.  I’ll usually search archives before I’ll post a question.  So, evidence of past activity is critical to me.

 

And, if there is a third reason, it is because there is a sense of community in the forums I frequent.  They are more than just repositories of information.  I have gotten to know people on those forums, have learned to trust their opinions, and I may never meet them in person or speak to them directly.  I suppose this is an intangible type of feature that is kind of organic in nature.  I don’t know if you can build “community” into a forum.  But, with active people, who care about the topic, responding to the needs of others, community happens.  In essence, a wider group of people become my trusted cabinet of advisors.

 

I’m not sure how this addresses your query, though.  It doesn’t really respond to HOW to get people to post in the first place.  My response makes it seem like a chicken and egg issue.  It might boil down to content as the primary, or first motivator.  If there is a generous amount of content, even if it doesn’t address my concern specifically, then I’ll linger and maybe post.   

 

Regards,

 

Jason Swan

Lead Instructional Systems Designer

-----------------------------------------

 

1228 E. Main St.

Havelock, NC 28532

Phone: (252) 444-0927

Fax: (252) 444-3129

 

 

From: sikmleaders@... [mailto:sikmleaders@...] On Behalf Of StanGarfield
Sent: Thursday, March 25, 2010 4:24 PM
To: sikmleaders@...
Subject: [sikmleaders] Re: Corporate KM Leaders, CKOs: What is your top priority or focus this year?

 

 

>What is your top priority or focus this year?

My priority is to try to get people to be more willing to ask questions in a threaded discussion board.  Communities suchas SIKM Leaders have members who can answer almost any question on knowledge management and related topics.  Often when I suggest to people with questions that they post them to this discussion board, they are reluctant to do so.

Nancy Dixon wrote an article called "Does Your Organization Have An Asking Problem?" and I often think of this title when I encounter those who won't ask for help in a public forum.  There are at least three variations of this problem:

  1. People will ask one or two trusted colleagues, but will not post to a more public forum.
  2. People will ask an internal group, but will not post to an external forum.
  3. People will send an email to an individual or small set of people whom they regard as experts, but will not post to a discussion board.

In the spirit of practicing what I preach, does anyone have any tips, proven practices, or other insights on how to help people to become more willing to ask for help in a public forum?

Regards,
sTAN


Nancy Dixon
 

Stan,
thanks for asking the question! And for the mention of my article. It is posted on my blog if others are interested.  

What I've noticed about questions that are asked on SKIM and on other KM sites  is that they are often so general that others have no way to provide any thing but a very general answer. I'd love to see all of us get better at framing the questions we ask on line. 

I think you did a great job of framing this one, for example.  You give your own thinking and you say why it is important to you.  You ask for something specific, e.g. "tips, proven practices or insights", and  enough background behind the question for us to understand why it is being asked.   

I recognize that doesn't answer your question though. So here is my stab at it. I think SIKM draws two levels of people, those of us who have been around a while and tend to see ourselves more in the role of experts - so we tend to answer, rather than ask.  And those  who are relatively new to the field who tend to ask the questions. Does that bear out in your own experience on SIKM?

Nancy


Nancy M. Dixon
Common Knowledge Associates
 512 912 6100

now blogging at www.nancydixonblog.com







katepugh <katepugh@...>
 

Stan et al -
 
This is a great question.  As a community facilitator at Intel I used to build momentum by posting a question as a lead-in to a community meeting.  And I started the community meeting with "John recounted X," "Jane added Y."  Or, during a meeting, I would ask someone who raises a relevant (unsolved) question to post it after the meeting.  I addressed them by name in front of the group, so if they agreed it was public -- and I would thank them offline (or post a reply). 
 
Another thing I did at Intel was to formally "mine" a thread with the key authors, and have them present it at a meeting (underscoring how cool it was that they learned all this through the discussion threads). 
 
We might want to informally start that "receive and give-back" as a practice - occasionally summarizing the ideas from the discussion. I am part of another Yahoo Group, "Boston Facilitators' Roundtable," where people mostly respond to the asker, and then after a few days, the asker plays back thumbnails of the answers in an email or attachment, usually with a summary at the top.  I don't recommend we do that all the time, but when we have long and winding threads, it would be a valuable service by the asker to do that for our SIKM group.
 
Kate
 
Katrina Pugh
AlignConsulting
781-538-5262 (office)
617-967-3910 (mobile)
 
 

In a message dated 03/25/10 16:24:55 Eastern Daylight Time, stangarfield@... writes:
 

>What is your top priority or focus this year?

My priority is to try to get people to be more willing to ask questions in a threaded discussion board.  Communities suchas SIKM Leaders have members who can answer almost any question on knowledge management and related topics.  Often when I suggest to people with questions that they post them to this discussion board, they are reluctant to do so.

Nancy Dixon wrote an article called "Does Your Organization Have An Asking Problem?" and I often think of this title when I encounter those who won't ask for help in a public forum.  There are at least three variations of this problem:

  1. People will ask one or two trusted colleagues, but will not post to a more public forum.
  2. People will ask an internal group, but will not post to an external forum.
  3. People will send an email to an individual or small set of people whom they regard as experts, but will not post to a discussion board.

In the spirit of practicing what I preach, does anyone have any tips, proven practices, or other insights on how to help people to become more willing to ask for help in a public forum?

Regards,
sTAN

 


jason.swan@...
 

Kate, do you find that people are most likely to discuss topics brought up by a moderator, such as yourself?  Or do you find that people are willing to ask questions?  Has it been your experience that starting threads and moderating events “primes the pump” for people, so that they are more willing to ask questions?  If that is the case, how do you choose topics?  In my organization I tried to champion monthly professional development seminars for our discipline group.  For a few months it worked, but people eventually stopped participating, and wouldn’t volunteer to lead future discussions.  I wondered if it was the choice of topic…

 

One thing I thought about last night as I was posting a question on another forum is that in some cases I might be hesitant to ask a question if I feel like I’ve never really contributed to the community with responses.  I guess it might be sort of a feeling of being a burden, rather than sharing the load. 

 

Regards,

 

Jason Swan

Lead Instructional Systems Designer

-----------------------------------------

 

1228 E. Main St.

Havelock, NC 28532

Phone: (252) 444-0927

Fax: (252) 444-3129

 

 

From: sikmleaders@... [mailto:sikmleaders@...] On Behalf Of katepugh
Sent: Friday, March 26, 2010 9:08 AM
To: sikmleaders@...
Subject: Re: [sikmleaders] Re: Corporate KM Leaders, CKOs: What is your top priority or focus this year?

 

 

Stan et al -

 

This is a great question.  As a community facilitator at Intel I used to build momentum by posting a question as a lead-in to a community meeting.  And I started the community meeting with "John recounted X," "Jane added Y."  Or, during a meeting, I would ask someone who raises a relevant (unsolved) question to post it after the meeting.  I addressed them by name in front of the group, so if they agreed it was public -- and I would thank them offline (or post a reply). 

 

Another thing I did at Intel was to formally "mine" a thread with the key authors, and have them present it at a meeting (underscoring how cool it was that they learned all this through the discussion threads). 

 

We might want to informally start that "receive and give-back" as a practice - occasionally summarizing the ideas from the discussion. I am part of another Yahoo Group, "Boston Facilitators' Roundtable," where people mostly respond to the asker, and then after a few days, the asker plays back thumbnails of the answers in an email or attachment, usually with a summary at the top.  I don't recommend we do that all the time, but when we have long and winding threads, it would be a valuable service by the asker to do that for our SIKM group.

 

Kate

 

Katrina Pugh

AlignConsulting

781-538-5262 (office)

617-967-3910 (mobile)

 

 


Steve Denning
 

To answer Stan's question bluntly, I don't generally ask for help in a public web forum because it doesn't work (and probably couldn't work for the kinds of questions I need help on.)

The kinds of questions on which I need help are big complex ones and public forums don't, and probably, can't offer this kind of help.

Take an example. Recently I needed help in editing and improving the manuscript of the new book that I am working on about radical management.

In the course of the January session of SIKMleaders, I asked for help and got a smattering of suggestions, i.e. not very much help. I was not surprised, as I had had similar experiences before and I wasn't expecting anything different.

This lack of response isn't restricted to a webbased group like SIKMLeaders. When I asked for similar help at the university where I happened to be late last year, I got exactly zero help: no one gave me any help at all. Everyone was too busy with their own stuff.

So I followed the example of Seth Godin and others. I invited people to join a new web-based group that would be specifically focused on this task--editing and making suggestions on my manuscript. I warned people that they would have to be willing to read several hundred pages of less-than-perfect prose within a short time frame and contribute their thoughts promptly. As it turned out, several hundred people volunteered for the task and I had to form several groups to keep the whole thing manageable. As it happens, a couple of people in SIKMLeaders became members of one of these groups. The groups are quite diverse, having been recruited from various sources.

It has worked very well. Over the course of several months, these groups have contributed almost one thousand posts. It has been an immensely helpful learning experience for me. A number of the participants have also said how interesting it has been and how much they learned. Only one person has resigned from the groups. I guess it is a kind of web-based peer assist. 

I say that this kind of discussion couldn't work in a public forum, because the volume of traffic would drown out any other discussion and possibly kill the public forum as a public forum. Thus the one thousand posts over three months in my groups compare to 2,200 posts in the SIKMleaders list over five years. So the volume of traffic is about ten times greater than SIKMleaders. If that discussion had taken place within SIKMleaders, it would probably have driven away members who didn't the time or the interest to follow that particular subject.

Public lists are good for answering simple questions (does anyone know of a German speaking KM expert in Munich?) or for recruiting people for more specific groups or activities. They are not good at providing the kind of help that I am generally looking for.

Steve Denning
Web: http://stevedenning.com
The Leader's Guide to Radical Management
http://www.stevedenning.com/Books/radical-management.aspx
Twitter: http://twitter.com/stevedenning
Email: steve@...


Douglas Weidner
 

Steve,

 

Well put, which proves once again, that groups/communities/chats. etc. all have different characteristics and “what’s in it for me” characteristics – (WIIFM), which must be considered.

 

If not considered, result can fall far short of hoped-for expectations.

 

Douglas Weidner

Chairman, KM Institute

 

From: sikmleaders@... [mailto:sikmleaders@...] On Behalf Of Stephen Denning
Sent: Sunday, March 28, 2010 8:02 AM
To: sikmleaders@...
Subject: Re: [sikmleaders] How to get people more willing to ask for help in a public form

 

 

To answer Stan's question bluntly, I don't generally ask for help in a public web forum because it doesn't work (and probably couldn't work for the kinds of questions I need help on.)

The kinds of questions on which I need help are big complex ones and public forums don't, and probably, can't offer this kind of help.

Take an example. Recently I needed help in editing and improving the manuscript of the new book that I am working on about radical management.

In the course of the January session of SIKMleaders, I asked for help and got a smattering of suggestions, i.e. not very much help. I was not surprised, as I had had similar experiences before and I wasn't expecting anything different.

This lack of response isn't restricted to a webbased group like SIKMLeaders. When I asked for similar help at the university where I happened to be late last year, I got exactly zero help: no one gave me any help at all. Everyone was too busy with their own stuff.

So I followed the example of Seth Godin and others. I invited people to join a new web-based group that would be specifically focused on this task--editing and making suggestions on my manuscript. I warned people that they would have to be willing to read several hundred pages of less-than-perfect prose within a short time frame and contribute their thoughts promptly. As it turned out, several hundred people volunteered for the task and I had to form several groups to keep the whole thing manageable. As it happens, a couple of people in SIKMLeaders became members of one of these groups. The groups are quite diverse, having been recruited from various sources.

It has worked very well. Over the course of several months, these groups have contributed almost one thousand posts. It has been an immensely helpful learning experience for me. A number of the participants have also said how interesting it has been and how much they learned. Only one person has resigned from the groups. I guess it is a kind of web-based peer assist. 

I say that this kind of discussion couldn't work in a public forum, because the volume of traffic would drown out any other discussion and possibly kill the public forum as a public forum. Thus the one thousand posts over three months in my groups compare to 2,200 posts in the SIKMleaders list over five years. So the volume of traffic is about ten times greater than SIKMleaders. If that discussion had taken place within SIKMleaders, it would probably have driven away members who didn't the time or the interest to follow that particular subject.

Public lists are good for answering simple questions (does anyone know of a German speaking KM expert in Munich?) or for recruiting people for more specific groups or activities. They are not good at providing the kind of help that I am generally looking for.

Steve Denning
Web: http://stevedenning.com
The Leader's Guide to Radical Management
http://www.stevedenning.com/Books/radical-management.aspx
Twitter: http://twitter.com/stevedenning
Email: steve@...


Matt Moore <innotecture@...>
 

In contrast to Steve, I have generally found email lists to be very helpful. Here are my observations:

1. The question has to fit the forum and resonate with the users of that forum. So the onus is on the questioner to both find a suitable forum for their question and phrase it in a way that will resonate with the forum members.

2. You have to give the love to get the love. I am more likely to answer questions from i. people I like or ii. people who are obviously in need. If I see a question posed by someone who only takes or only contributes when they want to publicize themselves, then I am less inclined to help them.

3. Closing the loop. If you do get a lot of responses then it's nice top feed these back to the email list in some form. KM4Dev is getting good at that.

One final point is that in many organizations, asking a question is a sign of weakness. When I was at IBM supporting a global online community, members would often ask me to post their questions anonymously. I pushed back on this but some form of anonymity may be important.



Arthur Shelley
 

Stephen,

 

I agree with your comments about what you can expect from an on-line community in principle.  My own experiences with bouncing ideas and concepts with forums like SIKMLeaders and actKM have been generally quite positive.  However, the volume of content I have been trying to collate/get feedback on has been much less.  A couple of years ago we collated a good role description for a KM leader from actKM and more recently we had a good exchange about the impact of using metaphor to enhance story and communication between people.  I am using the outputs of these to support some of my research (with attribution).  I have for some time been interested in the different responses from different forums.  What motivates people to watch versus become involved in quite complex I believe.  Many will watch to learn, but are reluctant to contribute through fear of being judged in a forum with well known professionals.

 

I believe that many people will make an effort to provide feedback on a reasonably short request, but there is only a minority that will commit to a significant task.  This is mainly a time issue as you state.  Your approach using one forum to recruit for another larger activity is a good method as people are aware of what they are signing up for.  It would be interesting to see the proportion of people that “watch” verses “participate” in such an initiative as the purpose of such a group is to solicit feedback.  I see a higher proportion of participation in the specific task sites/groups used through social media sites for the same reason.  They are more task orientated that general sharing, for example KM4Dev and a variety of LinkedIn groups (or even Facebook groups) and as such they are often smaller and more active.

 

Regards,
Arthur Shelley
Founder: Intelligent Answers & Organizational Zoo Ambassadors Network
Author:
The Organizational Zoo & Being a Successful Knowledge Leader
Twitter:
Metaphorage
Blog: http//organizationalzoo.blogspot.com 
Ph +61 413 047 408  Skype: Arthur.Shelley 
Free Zoo Behavioural Profiles:
www.organizationalzoo.com


From: sikmleaders@... [mailto:sikmleaders@...] On Behalf Of Stephen Denning
Sent: Sunday, 28 March 2010 11:02 PM
To: sikmleaders@...
Subject: Re: [sikmleaders] How to get people more willing to ask for help in a public form

 

 

To answer Stan's question bluntly, I don't generally ask for help in a public web forum because it doesn't work (and probably couldn't work for the kinds of questions I need help on.)

The kinds of questions on which I need help are big complex ones and public forums don't, and probably, can't offer this kind of help.

Take an example. Recently I needed help in editing and improving the manuscript of the new book that I am working on about radical management.

In the course of the January session of SIKMleaders, I asked for help and got a smattering of suggestions, i.e. not very much help. I was not surprised, as I had had similar experiences before and I wasn't expecting anything different.

This lack of response isn't restricted to a webbased group like SIKMLeaders. When I asked for similar help at the university where I happened to be late last year, I got exactly zero help: no one gave me any help at all. Everyone was too busy with their own stuff.

So I followed the example of Seth Godin and others. I invited people to join a new web-based group that would be specifically focused on this task--editing and making suggestions on my manuscript. I warned people that they would have to be willing to read several hundred pages of less-than-perfect prose within a short time frame and contribute their thoughts promptly. As it turned out, several hundred people volunteered for the task and I had to form several groups to keep the whole thing manageable. As it happens, a couple of people in SIKMLeaders became members of one of these groups. The groups are quite diverse, having been recruited from various sources.

It has worked very well. Over the course of several months, these groups have contributed almost one thousand posts. It has been an immensely helpful learning experience for me. A number of the participants have also said how interesting it has been and how much they learned. Only one person has resigned from the groups. I guess it is a kind of web-based peer assist. 

I say that this kind of discussion couldn't work in a public forum, because the volume of traffic would drown out any other discussion and possibly kill the public forum as a public forum. Thus the one thousand posts over three months in my groups compare to 2,200 posts in the SIKMleaders list over five years. So the volume of traffic is about ten times greater than SIKMleaders. If that discussion had taken place within SIKMleaders, it would probably have driven away members who didn't the time or the interest to follow that particular subject.

Public lists are good for answering simple questions (does anyone know of a German speaking KM expert in Munich?) or for recruiting people for more specific groups or activities. They are not good at providing the kind of help that I am generally looking for.

Steve Denning
Web: http://stevedenning.com
The Leader's Guide to Radical Management
http://www.stevedenning.com/Books/radical-management.aspx
Twitter: http://twitter.com/stevedenning
Email: steve@stevedenning.com


Stan Garfield
 

--- Nancy Dixon wrote:
> What I've noticed about questions that are asked on SIKM and on other KM sites is that they are often so general that others have no way to provide any thing but a very general answer. I'd love to see all of us get better at framing the questions we ask on line.

Nancy,

Thanks for your reply. Bruce Karney's 10 Rules for Asking Others to Share Knowledge Online or by Email (see http://docs.google.com/View?id=ddj598qm_37g47krwhg ) is useful in defining what to include in a question or request for help.  I suggest that the members of the SIKM Leaders Community read it and follow Bruce's guidelines when posting.

Regards,
Stan


Nancy Dixon
 

Excellent! Kudos to Bruce Karney!
Nancy
Nancy M. Dixon
Common Knowledge Associates
 512 912 6100

now blogging at www.nancydixonblog.com