Isabel de Clercq: Social technologies are a vital catalyst for organizational transformation!

We are starting this week’s interview publishing with the answers of our second opening keynote speaker at the IOM SUMMIT – it’s Isabel de Clercq from Kluwer Learning. She is a corporate learning evangelist and a well-known speaker on the transformative power of knowledge sharing in Belgium. This is also the subject of her talk in which she explores the key enabling elements of knowledge sharing for the organizational transformation and the role of social technology within this play.


1) Isabel – you will be speaking at our IOM SUMMIT on Sept 30 – what are the three keywords that we can tag your talk with?

#knowledge sharing, #empowered employee & #working out loud

2) You believe that social technologies are a catalyst for the transformation organizations are forced to undergo nowadays if they want to survive. Can you explain your ideas behind this?

Fossilization is widespread amongst our organizations and this rigidity is dangerous. After all, we are living in a context that calls for the exact opposite. Speed, agility, and vibrant interaction with customers and peers are key.

The powerful organizations of the future have an external view, they foster an adult working relationship, and they nurture the ability to deal with the unexpected. This is a real paradigm shift. A difficult one! But technology can help them with that. Let me explain why.

Social technologies are an incredibly powerful tool: they facilitate knowledge sharing and dispense with geographical and hierarchical barriers. This makes them a resource for strong networks and communities. Employees are easily connected with customers and peers. People find their voice and social technologies enhance serendipity. That’s why it is my strong belief that social technologies are a vital catalyst for organizational transformation.

3) How do you ensure that social collaboration actually works and that colleagues share their knowledge?

When promoting social collaboration, the emphasis is often put on the benefits of knowledge sharing for the organization. Increased efficiency, greater innovative capability and cost-savings are the most common arguments used. But does that really grasp the staff’s imagination?

So, it is important to emphasize the benefits of knowledge sharing to the individual. What’s in it for him or for her? And that soon leads us to the benefits of networking: you get better answers to your questions faster; it shapes your reputation amongst a wider audience, which, in turn, makes you less vulnerable; gives you access to a much wider range of choices and opportunities; and you simply become a stronger professional because of the richer feedback you get from various people in your network.

4) Do you have any tips on how to turn knowledge sharing into a success?

Like in any change trajectory, the support given at executive level is crucial. But it takes more: active engagement. Executive level should not only say that collaboration and knowledge sharing are important. They should also set the example, by maintaining an active social media presence and engaging in dialogue with customers and staff.

In fact, social collaboration will only be successful once knowledge sharing and collaboration in a digital environment are embedded in the work processes. If not, knowledge sharing will simply remain something you do “on the side” and will only use up more of your time.

A third element worth keeping in mind is that knowledge sharing does not come naturally to everyone. Offer colleagues, managers and executives a helping hand by hosting short workshops. Give concrete examples of how knowledge sharing helps to expand networks. Let people choose their own medium (PPT, video, blogging).

Also, make it clear to them that it is perfectly OK to take part in that flow of knowledge by nothing other than reading at first. I often use the 3C’s model: first Consuming (reading), then Contributing (commenting on other posts), and finally Creating (writing your own piece). Conveying your thoughts in writing and speaking takes practice.

Getting better at communicating through any medium is still the best thing people can do for their career. Thinking about what we have learned, about what we know, translating that into language and connecting with others in that manner is still something that sets us apart from algorithms and computers. Dion Hinchcliffe called “working out loud” 1 of the 7 required skills for the digital workforce – and I fully agree.

5) So what are your overall recommendations?

I would say:

  • Embrace social technologies! They are a powerful tool if you want to bring about change in your organization.
  • Explicate the why of knowledge sharing and highlight the benefits to the individual.
  • Have your executive level set the example – it sends a powerful signal.
  • Organize short workshops. Knowledge sharing via social media is not self-evident. Coach people.
  • Embed social collaboration in the workflow.

6) What are you looking forward to at the IOM SUMMIT?

Meeting people I have been following via social media for a while in real life: that’s the plan! I am also looking forward to exchanging ideas with speakers who present concrete cases. They will undoubtedly give me new insights in the matter.

And can you think of anything nicer than sharing knowledge with other people passionate about social collaboration?

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Susanne Bach

Susanne Bach

Senior Conference & Partner Manager bei Kongress Media
Senior Manager bei Kongress Media

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