Seeing Social Capital Work

A few days ago I received a thought provoking and relevant article from one of my colleagues who is in a very different department than I am. She is in such a different part of our organization’s work, in fact, that I probably would not have been on her radar screen normally, except that we have spent a few hours together recently co-designing a road-mapping workshop for an important external partner.

Last week she read this article, thought of my interests and sent it along to me. I had not seen it myself and probably would never have found it. Not only did it make my day, I also felt our institutional social capital at work. Among members of our own teams, we know many of the same people and read many of the same sources, newsletters, books etc. So our ability to bring radically different thinking into our team discussions is based mostly on our own efforts to connect with other audiences.

However, we can also spend a lot of time seeking this novel input, and we could still miss many useful things. What we have noticed is that when people from radically different “communities” start to understand our interests and learning goals, then they can also help bring us into contact with these new ideas and practices, cross-fertilize our learning, and make it an ongoing, continual process and much more refined than our own google-like searches. What does it take to encourage other people to help you with your work?

Many organizations talk about “silos” within them, to the extent that the lack of experience in collaboration, the lack of knowledge about what the other silos are doing and learning, and even the lack of relationships among people in those silos makes it ever harder to collaborate. When interconnections, collaboration and cross-fertisilation is the goal, even a little experience in successful collaboration, and a good relationship, can do a lot to help you share information and knowledge, and even find further opportunities to work together. This ultimately creates that flow of knowledge and information that is an important part of workplace learning and institutional knowledge management. Is this the body of work for a living, breathing learning organization?

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