JS: Ted, you've been one of those people who has really helped the EOE in
many ways by connecting us with people willing to work together for a shared
purpose. In particular, you've helped encourage several people to contribute
Features of the Week to the EOE. As a result of this experience and others,
you've coined the term "social know-who." What do you mean by this term?
TK: In thinking about what I’ve really done in various companies and projects
over the years, I think much of my own role and value has been as a broker
or "matchmaker" of intellectual capital resources. At the heart of what we
are calling "knowledge work" is the need to identify, develop, and support
human talent, creativity, and the capacity for effective lifelong learning.
Building successful learning communities is really about enhancing and leveraging
what people know, do, and create. So effective learning is as much about people
finding and helping other people who can assist them in their own pursuits
than it is about just finding and using information
Know-who is a companion to "know-what" and know-how. Using a musical metaphor,
it’s a harmonic or contrapuntal line that parallels the other more dominant
themes that tend to be more audible. I am using this concept in both of the
two companies with which I am involved: In DesignWorlds for Learning <http://www.designworlds.com>,
our notion of creating a virtual design and learning studio among schools,
homes and community/business partners depends heavily on finding talent and
people who are willing to work in new ways to help schools leverage their
technology and people resources more effectively. In the workplace arena,
CapitalWorks, LLC <http://www.capworks.com>, we are focusing
on maximizing human capital performance through applying principles
of work redesign (such as work effectiveness) and use of appropriate support
technologies to align strategy and everyday behaviors in the workplace.
In both cases, human capital and creativity are really about working
with people to help other people. Helping people learn to collaborate
in developing and using their capabilities and skills to the highest degree
possible is, for me, what effective lifelong learning is all about.
JS: Is "know-who" a skill and how does it relate to other skills needed
for learning and knowledge work?
TK: I believe "know-who" plays a very important role in all kinds of learning,
work, and creative activity. We usually think of it primarily as a "social
skill," but I think it complements and is an integral part of other important
skills. In the context of knowledge work, it’s a vital part of finding and
knowing how to use resources.
In thinking about what we need for education and for supporting continuous
learning in an age where new knowledge creation is as important as knowledge-acquisition,
I’ve come up with "Seven Knows" as basic skills:
Know-who (social networking skills, locating the key people and communities
where competencies, knowledge and practice reside&endash;and who can add
the greatest value to one’s learning and work)
Know-what/ Know-not (facts, information, concepts; how to customize
and filter out information, distinguish junk and glitz from real substance,
ignore unwanted and unneeded information and interactions)
Know-how (creative skills, social practices, tacit knowing-as-doing,
Know "What-if...?" (simulation, modeling, alternative futures projection)
Know-where (where to seek and find the best information and resources
one needs in different learning and work situations)
Know-when (process and project management skills, both self-management
and collaborative group processes)
Know/Care-why (reflection and organizational knowing about one’s participation
and roles in different communities; being ecological and socially proactive
in caring for one’s world and environment).
JS: Can you say more about what’s involved in know-who and how it relates
to learning and knowledge creation?
TK: There’s something very intuitive about finding key people who have the
right kinds of ideas, talents or resources you need just at the right time.
I think this is something that master deal makers or "knowledge brokers" have
developed into a fine skill--and their involvement as facilitators of change
is largely based on their social networking skills. This is going to become
increasingly true as we become more and more connected to the Internet and
to each other. It’s also something that has not yet been well documented or
researched, although it has been recognized before in some communities as
a very important skill. For example, over 50 years ago, Vannevar Bush wrote
a visionary article called, "As We May Think," (1945) where he predicted our
need for both new technologies (e.g., the "memex," the first vision of a
personal hypermedia device) to create and help manage the knowledge explosion.
Bush also predicted a new kind of knowledge worker called, "pathfinders,"
who would help establish linkages and cross-references to information resources
that would be accessed by these devices.
A couple of years ago, an electronic document called "The Cybrarian’s Manifesto"
was circulated on the Net among the library and information science communities
just a few years ago when the Web was still a very new phenomenon. This document
predicted a new and very important role for librarians in information space
that largely paralleled Bush’s prediction of the "pathfinders" role. One example
of an Internet business that takes this notion quite seriously is
The Mining Company
. It’s one of the few Internet startup companies
to recognize just how important people are to the information search and access
problem. Rather than rely on just intelligent agents and search engines. The
Mining Company has built a network of over 500 real people who help others
"mine" their way through information space through their own recommendations,
indexing, and organizing of information resources. Effectively, they are really
playing the role of information brokers and pathfinders.
JS: How did you come up with the idea of social "know-who"?
TK: This is really a very old idea; what’s new is how many people in different
sectors are coming to realize just how important supporting people’s social
and informal learning are their different enterprises. The Institute for Research
on Learning <http://www.irl.org> pointed this out in a short
document several years ago, called "Putting People First&endash; A New
Learning Agenda" (Menlo Park: IRL, 1992). More recently, several authors have
noted the value of technologies (such as the Internet) and innovation lies
in supporting people to be real value creators (e.g., see John Hagel &
Arthur Armstrong’s book, Net Gain (Harvard Business School Press, 1997)
or Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi, The Knowledge-Creating Company
(Oxford University Press, 1995).
When I was growing up, my parents and our family and friends talked about
schmoozing. This is a Yiddish word that means talking
and "shooting the bull" with friends and colleagues, and getting together
to share stories, gossip, and jokes--and just have fun. Since I was a child,
my mom has repeatedly told me, "It’s not just what you know, but who you know."
I’ve now come to understand she was talking about social networking, and
many people from different disciplines and cultures have surely talked about
this same idea over the centuries. (I’m sure anthropologists have studied
this practice across many different cultures for many years, but it’s only
more recently that their insights have begun to spread into schools and workplaces).
For example, I remember when I was living in Israel may years ago, I was struck
by the importance of the practice of drinking strong coffee together with
a business associate as a part of closing a business deal between two parties.
Meals, water coolers, and coffee pots are now understood to be extremely valuable
occasions and locations for the informal spread of knowledge in organizations.
In Silicon Valley, schmoozing or social networking are at the heart of many
of our business practices. This may even be a "core competency" of the whole
entrepreneurial ethos of what makes a culture of new "start ups" possible
(for example, see a recent article by Sally Richards in High Technology
Careers magazine, <http://www.hightechcareers.com/doc698/nextstep698.html
>. For example, Sean Griffin, CEO of Studio F/X <http://www.studiofx.com
>) recently started a social gathering he calls the Cyber Schmooze (for
more info, contact <www.Fenton@studiofx.com>. Just last Sunday, Dan
Gillmor, leading technology columnist for Business section of the San Jose
Mercury News, wrote, "There’s an incalculable value in the schmoozing,
the building of relationships that will last a lifetime." <http://www.mercurycenter.com/columnists/gillmor
"Know-who" is something most of us take for granted because it’s something
we do all the time. "Head hunters," human resource people, deal makers, publishers,
and producers base their practices on this skill&endash;and for them,
it’s a major business proposition. But for the rest of us, especially in education,
we tend to pay more attention to focussing on "know-what" and "know-how,"
rather than the natural and fundamental social context in which learning
JS: How does "know who" affect your own work and learning?
TK: Some time ago, I noticed something about my own practices which I started
discussing with some friends who had similar practices: When we were browsing
or reading new books and articles, we all tended to first pay attention to
the names of people whose works were cited or just the names of people mentioned
in the works. We tended to track more about the people over time rather than
just their topic or content. For example, when I browse a new non-fiction
book, I will often look in the index and bibliography before I even start
reading. I find I want to know who the author has turned to as his
or her resource people. I think this is a byproduct of the information and
knowledge explosion that Vannevar Bush predicted 50 years ago. In speaking
to some of my research colleagues, several have mentioned they no longer have
time to read as extensively as they used to in order to keep up to date in
their fields. Rather than doing extensive literature reviews in their fields,
when these researchers now want to bring themselves up to date, they will
usually call up or email one or two key people they really respect and
ask them which books and articles they have been
reading lately or which ones they would recommend.
Several years ago, I also noticed that people I had known for many years
would show up at professional conferences or other events, but would have
moved from one company to another since I had last seen them. Collecting and
tracking their business cards over time began to create a map of how some
key ideas and technologies were moving through communities here in Silicon
Valley and elsewhere. So if people are the intellectual capital of the knowledge
age where we want to keep creating value, we all need to know how to find
and maintain contact with the best people, talent, and expertise.
JS: Is there a conceptual or research basis for social know-who and how
it affects development of learning and new knowledge creation communities?
TK: Social know-who starts as a kind of personal or tacit knowledge, something
that many people do, but can’t articulate or explain easily. When several
people play active roles in using these skills within (and between) different
learning communities, it can then develop into a very effective social practice.
These practices have been examined as part of what’s called a "situated"
perspective on learning. Understanding situated learning and cognition has
been pioneered by anthropologists and other researchers at both Xerox PARC
the Institute for Research on Learning for over a decade <http://www.irl.org>
and this work has now spread to many other research labs, universities, schools,
and workplace settings. It is base on the fact that learning is fundamentally
a social enterprise and it is happening all the time; we are often just not
aware of anywhere near the full scope or scale of how much learning is taking
place&endash;and by whom.
Learning is something people do to become more productive members of various
"communities of practice" to which they want to belong (see Jean Lave &
Etienne Wenger, Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation
(Cambridge University Press, 1991) and Etienne Wenger, Communities of
Practice (Cambridge University Press, 1998). Learning helps people acquire
and use the kinds of knowledge and skills that are central to the activities
and practices of these communities. For example, if you want to become a good
jazz musician, you listen to a lot of jazz, learn to improvise through playing
with different kinds of jazz groups and you "hang out" with musicians who
have become very good at the kinds of music you like. You can "study" different
jazz techniques and de-construct famous pieces or solos--but to really learn
jazz, you have to play jazz and become a jazz musician. The same can be said
for becoming a world class artist, scientist, writer, or medical doctor.
Since all of us belong to many, often overlapping communities of practice
(some of which may include members spread all over the world), social know-who
has to do partially with knowing who the brokers or leaders
are in these different communities&endash;i.e., which people are most
likely to have key connections with other communities where we want to affiliate--and
also understanding the "map" of how these communities relate to each other.
The social connections between these people and between these communities
are a key part of how people create value. In Hagel and Armstrong’s terms,
virtual communities add value by enabling information users or consumer to
also become knowledge creators--and in order to do this, there must
be an authentic audience or user community that is seeking the new knowledge
JS: Do you see on-line communities, such as the EOE and those created with
our GOE on-line learning community starter kit, as fostering the development
of "social know-who?"
TK: I feel that social know-who is both a necessary component of creating
successful learning communities, as well as an important "value added" aspect
of what such communities provide its members and participants. Tom Kalil (Director
of the National Economic Council) made a very important point when he said
that the real value of the Internet is in "leveraging cyberspace"--that is,
in expanding and maximizing the "small efforts of the many."
I believe the whole architectural approach that has been taken by the EOE,
in actively soliciting and publishing contributions from its members, in structuring
resources, and in providing an easy to use GOE structure to help people set
up their own local EOE communities, is something that also really encourages
people to get to know each other and their interests. For example, MERLOT
helps connect Learning Technology Coordinators across the 22 California State
University campuses <http://merlot.csuchico.edu>. It
is based on the GOE model, and they've taken the basic model of the GOE and
done a very nice job in expanding the "profile section." This is a clear case
of leveraging the work of a community and adding value for others.
In another example, two colleagues and I, together with three other "mentor
coaches," used the Web as "matchmakers" in helping find over 40 key educators
from 14 different developing and developed countries to participate in collaborative
learning projects. We virtually paired up 14 different sets of partners prior
to having them meet each other and work together, face-to-face, at a 3-day
international conference/workshop in Israel last year called "The Art, Science
and Technology of Learning for the 21st Century" (ASTL) <http://
www.teleproj.com>. One such collaboration that I helped mentor
between Edenvale Elementary School, an elementary school in one of the poorest
regions of San Jose, CA, and the Idalina School in Sao Paulo, Brazil, has
now blossomed into a very active collaborative, comparative research and arts
project. Elementary school students and middle/high school students who have
never met one another, face-to-face are collaborating virtually to compare
the water pollution in both countries as they also explore how they can use
electronic arts to raise public awareness&endash;and action&endash;around
this problem. <www.garlic.com/~lullah/brazilus/water.html
JS: Social know-who is more than just having contact information for people.
What are some of the key ways that people can be of value to each other in
an on-line community?
TK: There are several typical functions that people play in providing value
to each other in virtual or online communities:
Locating or pointing people to good resources
Brokering (e.g., helping two parties come up with a collaborative project
that truly meets the needs of both parties)
Matchmaking (seeing how resources, knowledge and core competencies of different
people and communities can help leverage one another--and referring people
to other people who can add value or gain from their interactions together)
Schmoozing or "kibbitzing" (the kind of informal chatting that goes on around
coffee pots, water coolers, in restaurants, bars and coffee houses).
Q: "Firefly" and "Six Degrees" are leveraging technology to help people
find others with shared interests and social connections. How do people actually
use these technologies? I've also heard of a service in which you register
your friends and colleagues names, as well as indicate your travel plans,
and it automatically sends out a notification when you will be in the area.
Have any of these early experiments resulted in practical payoffs or benefits
to those who participate?
Thanks to the reference of a business colleague, I was recently referred
to (and have now registered with) the Six Degrees Web site <http://www.sixdegrees.com>.
This site is based on the "small world" phenomenon, the idea that everyone
is connected to just about anyone in the world through no more than six degrees
of separation (i.e., someone who knows/is connected to someone else, who,
in turn, knows someone else, etc.) I am exploring how (or whether) this kind
Web service really adds value to what I already do informally and socially.
However, what really intrigued me was an article by Sandra Blakeslee, "Mathematicians
prove that it’s a small world," which appeared recently in the Science section
of the New York Times (June 16, 1998). This article summarized recently
published articles from Nature and New Scientist on some fascinating
mathematical studies of the power of "short cuts" or "linkages" in different
kinds of networks. They have shown that by creating these remote linkages
in otherwise fairly orderly networks, one radically shortens the time or number
of links one would have to traverse in order to reach the kinds of people,
information or resources that would normally be completely out of reach.
Basically, these studies really support Kalil’s notion of the power of "leveraging
cyberspace"--not just with distributed computational resources, but people
links, as well!
JS: Ted, you'll recall a discussion we had several months ago, in which
we talked about encouraging "exemplar behavior" by members of the EOE, and
then providing them a "soap box" to talk about their activities in such a
way that others could use as a model for making their own contributions to
the EOE. What do you think are some of the exemplar behaviors, and how can
we leverage "social know-who" to stimulate more of the exemplar activities
the EOE is trying to encourage.
TK: Over the past six months, I have had the privilege of playing broker
or "midwife" to three different EOE "Feature of the Week" articles, written
by Tristan de Frondeville (School of the Arts, San Francisco, CA), Scott Muri
and Bruce Andrews (The Celebration School, Osceola County, Florida), and
Boris Berenfeld (TERC and The Concord Consortium, Concord, MA). Each of these
authors discovered the EOE in different ways; for some of them, I was their
personal host and introduced them to the site; for others, I helped show
how their own knowledge (and that of their students) could be leveraged through
use of the site and how their experiences could add value for other EOE members.
Just as Howard Gardner helped us all realize there are many different kinds
of intelligence, rather than just one, I think this is true for exemplary
behaviors in an ever-evolving virtual community like the EOE. Alan Greenspan
of the Federal Reserve Board, recently pointed out that no product or service
really has any intrinsic value outside of a need or desire by other people
to acquire, use or supplement these products or services. This means that
we can’t expect one form of participation by any individual (or group) in
a learning communities such as the EOE to be valuable to all of the members.
To go back to something that John Dewey said a long time ago, "Knowing is
literally something which we do." This means that unless we actively
use, question, interpret, augment, supplement, and spread knowledge resources
to others, their value is always latent&endash;potentially very powerful,
but practically inactive. Here is where social know-who comes into the picture:
By creating a "critical mass" of pathfinders, knowledge brokers, matchmakers,
and schmoozers, we can help turn the large latent asset value of the EOE into
real active value. And, to me, that’s exemplary behavior in any community.
1I would first like to express appreciation to the Institute for Research
on Learning (IRL), where I spent several years as a member of the research
staff absorbing ideas related to situated learning and communities of practice
which clearly underlie this article.
I also wish to thank my dear friend, Dr. Sherman Rosenfeld of the Weizmann
Institute of Science <firstname.lastname@example.org>, and Dr. Uri Marchaim <email@example.com>,
both of whom were my fellow co-organizers of the international educational
ASTL Workshop/Conference in Israel in November, 1997 <http://www.teleproj.com>.
This conference embodied the practices that are described in this article.
It was only through the use of our combined social know-who, augmented by
email and the use of the Web, that this conference was ever able to come about.
I owe a special debt to Sherman Rosenfeld for these ideas, as we have both
been practicing and using them for as long as we’ve known each other (and
And, last but certainly not least, special thanks to Jim Spohrer and Martin
Koning-Bastiaan, as well as to John Lilly, Lori Leahy, Lucy Thompson, Anil
Srivastava, Jeremy Roschelle, and Byron Henderson for all their interest and
encouragement in getting me personally involved with the EOE since its inception.
2 Kalil, T. A. (1996). Leveraging cyberspace. IEEE Communications
Magazine, July, 1996, 82-86.