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Social Media and Community as EPSS

February 19, 2009

I’ve been wondering lately if community could be a more realistic approach to formal EPSS and knowledge management.  Neither EPSS nor Knowledge Management have really fulfilled their early hype or promise.  I’ve always believed that it was the weight of the effort to make them, and the formality and process that surrounds them.  At their core, both are really just another form of expert-driven, expert-mediated content / process.

But if you strip away the complexity of a typical EPSS and focus on the actual acronym: Electronic Performance Support System then maybe there is another way to approach this.  Ditto for knowledge management – if you just focus on the idea of managing knowledge and not worry about all the formal trappings that accompany this market segment, maybe there is a more flexible and open way to do this?

Courses don’t really fit this bill — too big, too heavy, too much. Simulations kind of do if you can access them at a time of need and easily find them.  But searchable blogs, discussions, comments etc… provide an even faster, more powerful way to get to granular content at a time of need.  If you throw in access to profiles and thus to people, maybe community can be an EPSS if it searches are quick and accurate enough.  How quick is quick enough?  It really depends on the need.

Consider the story of Bonnie Merckland at Ace. She needed info to close a deal.  She didn’t have it, and thus reached out to her peers on a discussion board. Within hours, she had a detailed answer and as a result closed $5,000 worth of business. So, is this a “true” EPSS like we used to think of it in the 90’s? No. Is it a “real” EPSS that meets the definition and solves real business problems? Absolutely. She had a need, it got solved and the end result was performance. It’s also “knowledge management” because the info is now searchable. And training because she learned something. Three birds, one stone.

Final thought: what the industry used to do with EPSS and Knowledge Management is a very much expert mediated, just like courses are, just like enterprise content management. None of these should go away in this new world. What community offers is a way to remove the mediator to allow for greater scale and a broader vision of “expertise.” I think the result is a different breed of EPSS, Knowledge Management and Learning solution, one that is based on user-generated content and peer to peer interactions as opposed to “expert-only” creation and mediation.  What do you think?

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